Belly Mapping 101: How To Tell Your Baby’s Position In The Womb

What Is Belly Mapping, And How Do You Do It? Find Out Where Your Little Peanut Is

October 26, 2020 Updated February 18, 2021

Beautiful woman with baby painted on pregnant belly.
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When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to convince yourself that you must be expecting triplets (even if you know differently) — or, like, an octopus. Those seem like the only possible explanations for the fact that your baby feels like it is everywhere in your belly. Because they’re moving all over the place, you can’t tell their tiny little tush from their toes. And it goes without saying that you’d love to know your baby’s position in the womb… if for no other reason than to give yourself a better chance of anticipating the pelvic pain that comes with baby’s sharp kicks to your cramped bladder. Well, it’s time for you to meet belly mapping.

It may sound a little New Age-y, but this technique has been around since at least the ‘70s. Plus, it has a lot of practical value since fetal positioning can greatly affect a mom’s comfort level in both pregnancy and childbirth. So, let’s take a closer look at what belly mapping is and everything else to know about it.

What is belly mapping?

We’ll give you a well-rounded answer to that question by the end of this article. But, basically, belly mapping helps you determine your baby’s position in utero. Meaning if you’ve been wondering how to tell what position baby is in or how to get baby in the right position for birth, you came to the right place.

Midwife Gail Tully, founder of SpinningBabies.com, gets the credit for coining the term “belly mapping.” According to her website, it’s defined as “a three-step process for identifying baby’s position in the final months of pregnancy.”

When can you start belly mapping?

Although every woman and every pregnancy is different, the general rule of thumb is that the best time to do belly mapping is after 30 weeks (or seven to eight months pregnant).

What are spinning babies?

Spinning babies is a technique used to help put your baby in the position for the best delivery. This technique is used to put your baby in the proper fetal position for a safe delivery. There are many spinning exercises you can use to get your baby to where you need them to be. It also beats doing an invasive procedure to turn the baby. 

You can get your baby in the right position by doing the exercises listed below. Make sure you get the OK from your doctor before participating in these activities:

  • Walk quickly for one to three miles a day.
  • Do hip-opening yoga and stretches.
  • Do the bridge pose. It’s also helpful to do other forward-leaning inversion exercises, which looks like putting your knees on the couch and resting your arms and head on the floor. This strengthens your ligaments and cervix, which allows your baby’s head to fit through the birthing canal easily. You can also turn your belly into a hammock for your baby. Just make sure you’re being safe and using sturdy bases like a couch, heavy chair, or your partner. Keeping your lower back forward as you stand or walk is also good for spinning your baby. 
  • While sitting in a chair, squeeze a ball between your knees and then your thighs. Take a deep breath during each switch and squeeze.
  • Eating right will also help you have an easier delivery, so make sure you’re drinking about two liters of water a day, keeping up with your protein, and watching your salt intake. Fresh leafy greens are also a must and should be part of your diet.
  • If you’re looking to spin your baby in your sleep, sticking to one sleeping position can help. Sleeping on your side is also helpful. Make sure you have a pillow between your legs and try to get your entire leg on the pillow. Doing this will help lift the baby out of the pelvis so they can turn.

What positions could baby be in?

There are three main positions a baby takes in utero (which is also known as fetal presentation): cephalic, breech, and transverse. But depending on precisely how baby is situated, there are six common fetal positions:

  • Cephalic — occipito-anterior: This is sort of the golden standard when it comes to fetal presentation. It’s the most ideal for childbirth! Basically, baby is upside down facing your back, allowing them to tuck their chin into their chest.
  • Cephalic — occipito-posterior: In this fetal presentation, baby is upside down but facing forward with their back against yours. You’ve probably heard this referred to as “sunny-side up.” Since baby can’t tuck their head into their chin in this position, it makes for a less seamless transition down the pelvis. To avoid this, your healthcare provider may try to manually rotate baby during labor.
  • Breech — frank: If your baby is breech, it means their head is facing up (as opposed to the optimal, down). With frank breech, baby’s legs are pointing up and their butt is closest to the birth canal.
  • Breech — footling: With this presentation, one or both of baby’s feet are pointed downward, making them closest to the birth canal.
  • Breech — complete: Here, baby’s butt is closest to the birth canal, but their knees are bent. It’s almost like they’re sitting criss-cross applesauce.
  • Transverse: If your baby’s fetal presentation is transverse, it means they’re lying horizontally or sideways in your uterus. Here, their shoulder is most likely to come out first, although it’s rare for babies to remain in this position until birth.

    Signs your baby’s head is down

  • You may feel your baby’s butt or their legs above your belly button.
  • You may also feel pressure low in your belly.
  • You’ll know your little one’s legs are higher than your chest if you can hear their heartbeat toward the lower part of your belly. You can check this out using a fetoscope. 
  • You may feel your baby’s bottom or legs in your rib cage. 
  • You may feel smaller movements deep in your pelvis. This is usually your baby’s hands or elbows. 

How is belly mapping done?

Want to know the fetal presentation of your little chicken nugget? Here’s what you’ll need to do if you want to give belly mapping a shot:

  • Get your supplies: You need a comfortable but relatively firm flat surface to lie on, like your bed or the couch. You’ll also need a sheet of paper and something to draw with. Or you could use paint or non-toxic marker and doodle right on your belly.
  • Find baby’s head: Lying flat on your back or partially reclined, very gently place pressure on your upper pelvic area. Do you feel something hard and round? You’ve probably found baby’s head. Alternately, if you’re pushing on something round and firm-ish (it won’t be as hard as the head) that could be a teeny baby tushie. If baby is moving, pay attention to how it feels. Do you feel like you’re getting strong kicks to your bladder? Those little legs are probably down. If the movements feel more fluttery, you’re probably feeling baby’s hands or fingers down there.
  • Find baby’s back: Once you find baby’s head, move your hands upwards from it. Do you feel a smooth, firm mass? That’s baby’s back! If you don’t feel anything matching that description, baby is probably in the posterior position (aka with their back facing your back), making it hard for you to feel the back.
  • Mark the position: Once you’ve located baby’s head and have a sense of where their back is, go ahead and draw a large circle divided into four quadrants on your paper or belly. Mark where you think both the head and back are. If you have a baby doll handy, you can then use it to visualize from the head and back positioning where baby’s arms and legs might be. Then you can draw those, too.

Can a baby’s position in the womb change?

Not only can it change, it likely will frequently — especially during the first two trimesters. Waiting until after week 30 gives you a better chance of belly mapping when baby is snuggled in more, although they can still change positions on their own at that point as well. If you have any questions about the results of your belly mapping, you can ask your OB to confirm (or disprove, perhaps) your findings at your next appointment.

What are baby hiccups in the womb?

While we’re on the subject of baby activity in the belly, let’s talk about hiccups. Like kicking, you can feel your baby’s hiccups inside of you. Fetal hiccups feel a lot like twitching or muscle spasms. You can expect them around the second or third trimester. Some doctors believe it’s a sign of lung development in your baby. While some babies hiccup a few times a day, others may not. After week 32, it’s usually uncommon to feel fetal hiccups, so if you do, call your doctor to make sure everything’s OK.