What Does Station Mean In Pregnancy

Location, Location, Location

As you get closer to meeting the bundle of joy that has been growing inside you for the past nine months, your doctor may seem to acquire a whole new vocabulary. Sudden, she's talking about station, dilation and presentation, but the only thing you really want to know is when you're going to be able to see your feet again. Fortunately for your distracted mommy brain, station is a relatively straightforward number that tells you and your doctor how far your baby's head has descended into your pelvis. This number, along with dilation and presentation, can help your doctor see how ready you and your baby are for labor.

Moving Down the Line

cropped shot of doctor writing down while pregnant woman holding stomach

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During your late pregnancy exams, your doctor will likely do a cervical exam. This helps her determine how ready your baby and body are for the birth process. A cervical exam lets your doctor figure out if you are dilating, what position your baby is in, and where he is in relation to your pelvis and the outside world. "Station" is a number that describes how far your baby has descended into your pelvis, and ultimately, down the birth canal. Station numbers range from -5 to 5, with each number representing a centimeter of distance moved. When your baby is floating and not yet engaged, he is somewhere between station -5 and -1. When your baby's head is engaged in the birth canal, he's at 0 station, and numbers between 1 and 5 measure your baby's movement down the birth canal and toward the outside world.

Open Wide

In addition to station, a cervical exam can help your doctor measure how dilated your cervix is. For most of your pregnancy, your cervix should be at a 0, or tightly closed. When it is time to deliver, your cervix is typically at 10 centimeters, or fully open. As you get into the latter part of your third trimester, your cervix may start to dilate. If your cervix starts to open too early or too quickly, it may indicate that your body is trying to go into labor. Your doctor will help you address this to keep both you and baby safe.

Getting Into Position

cropped shot of doctor writing down while pregnant woman holding stomach

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As you near the end of your third trimester, your doctor will also monitor your baby's position inside of you. The best position for birth is for your baby's head to be pointed down, with the back of his head toward your belly button. This presentation allows your baby's head to fit into your pelvis and make his way out as smoothly as possible. If your baby's bum is on the bottom rather than his head, it's called a breech position. This position can make labor more difficult, although many breech babies turn head-down before labor begins. If your baby is breech in the latter part of your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend exercises to encourage your baby to turn, or she may try to physically manipulate your baby into the right position before you go into labor.

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