It is unlikely you have ever heard the term “foetal station” or “your baby’s presentation” before your first child (unless you’re an OB, midwife or childbirth educator). But it is a term you will definitely be familiar with by the end of your first birth. Although, it is not unheard of for women to come through birth and still not know what it truly means. So here’s the quick low down!
Your baby’s presentation
Your baby’s presentation refers to the position of your baby in your pelvis. In particular, it measures where the baby’s head is in relation to your pelvis. Your midwife or caregiver checks how the baby is positioned by pressing her fingers against the lower part of your abdomen and feeling where your baby’s head is.
So, what do all the numbers mean?
You may hear your caregiver say that you are anywhere from -5 station through 0 to +5 station. 0 is an imaginary point at the narrowest point of your pelvis. This is where the ischial spines are. The negative numbers are above the ischial spines and means your baby is not yet engaged. -5 means your baby is 5 centimetres above your ischial spines and is floating in your pelvis.
When the top of your baby’s head is level with the ischial spines, your caregivers will refer to your baby as ‘engaged’. For first time pregnancies, this can happen anywhere in the month leading up to birth. In subsequent pregnancies, this may not happen until you are in labour.
The positive numbers mean the baby’s head is below the ischial spines. That is, your baby is descending in your pelvis, getting ready for birth. You will sometimes hear people say that the baby has ‘dropped’. Meaning it has dropped below the ischial spines and his or her head is moving down in your pelvis ready for birth. You will rarely hear someone saying you are at +5 station as this generally means your baby is crowning.
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