Chances are that you’ve heard the expression “childbearing hips” before. Maybe someone used these words to describe your body shape or the shape of someone else.

But considering how most women are built with the ability to bear children, saying that someone has childbearing hips might seem a bit odd — or even confusing.

Read on to learn what “childbearing hips” really means, and why this shape could make giving birth a little easier for some women.

To be clear, describing a woman’s hips as childbearing doesn’t mean that she possesses some special ability to bear children that other women don’t.

In the simplest terms, childbearing hips refers to a woman’s pelvic structure. This expression is often used to describe women who have larger or wider hips.

Pelvic shapes aren’t one size fits all. Rather, they can vary considerably in shape and size from woman to woman. And basically, some women are built with a wider pelvis and hips that can possibly make it easier for them to carry and birth a baby.

Back in the 1930s, researchers classified the pelvis into four shapes: gynecoid, anthropoid, android, and platypelloid. Interestingly, newer research shows that pelvic shapes aren’t so easily classified into these four groups and that there is more of a variation than previously thought.

Still, to understand why it’s believed that pelvic shapes might influence childbirth, here are the characteristics of each shape as they were originally described.

Gynecoid pelvis

Typically if you have a gynecoid pelvis, your pelvis is wide and shallow. Because of this wideness, there’s more room for a baby to pass through the pelvis during delivery.

So a woman who’s described as having childbearing hips likely has a gynecoid shaped pelvis, which was thought to be most favorable for labor and delivery. Gynecoid happens to be a common pelvic shape, too.

Anthropoid pelvis

An anthropoid pelvis is another common shape. The difference, though, is that a gynecoid pelvis is wider from right to left. With an anthropoid pelvis, the hips are wider from front to back.

So if you have an anthropoid pelvic shape, you might carry most of your weight in your buttocks and abdomen. The shape of this pelvis is less open, so your labor might be longer and not as smooth as someone with a gynecoid pelvis.

Android pelvis

Android pelvis is typically seen in taller women and is characterized by smaller buttock muscles and a narrow pubic arch. As a result, it can be more difficult for babies — particularly larger babies — to pass through the pelvis during childbirth.

It’s definitely possible to have a vaginal birth with this pelvic shape, just know that you might have a longer labor.

Platypelloid pelvis

A platypelloid pelvis is also characterized by narrowness. This pelvic shape can also result in a slightly longer delivery since it can take your baby longer to enter the pelvis.

The difference between this shape and android is that an android pelvis has a narrow pubic arch. A platypelloid pelvis has a wider sub-pubic arch. Therefore, if you have a platypelloid pelvis, labor becomes easier once your baby enters the pelvis.

Decades ago, a woman’s pelvis area was X-rayed to determine whether or not she might be able to have a relatively easy vaginal birth. While pelvic X-rays are no longer part of the prenatal checkup, your OB-GYN may examine your pelvis to get a sense of the structure.

Understand, though, that having a certain pelvic shape isn’t necessarily an indicator of an easier birth, or whether you’ll have a vaginal delivery or a cesarean delivery.

Many factors come into play during childbirth, including the size of the baby’s head, the health of the mother, and the positioning of the baby during labor.

Here’s the important thing to remember: a woman’s body is designed to birth a baby. As you get closer to your due date and labor begins, your pelvic floor will naturally relax and stretch in preparation for delivery. This happens when your body releases the hormone relaxin.

Your pelvic bones will slightly separate from each other, and it’s this separation that allows a baby to move through your pelvic joints. But although the ligaments around your pelvis will relax in preparation for childbirth, your pelvis shape doesn’t change.

The bottom line is yes — having childbearing (wider) hips could make childbirth easier. Wider hips provide plenty of room for a baby to pass through the pelvic bones. But hip size isn’t the only factor that affects your birth experience.

The truth is, some women with so-called childbearing hips have had difficult deliveries, and some women with narrower pelvic shapes have had easier births. There’s no way to know what your experience will be until you actually deliver the baby!

Here are some other factors that come into play:

Baby’s size

One factor that can greatly influence your childbirth experience is the size of your baby. Even though a woman with wider hips is likely to have a faster, smoother delivery, this might not happen when delivering a large baby.

The baby might be slightly wider than the hips, and if so, this could potentially slow down delivery. Just the same, a woman with a narrow-shaped pelvis — which typically makes it more difficult to deliver — may have a smoother birth due to delivering a smaller baby.

Baby’s position

Also, the position of your baby can influence birth, affecting whether you have an easy or hard birth.

Babies are typically easier to deliver when they’re in a “head down” position in the womb. The good news is that most babies naturally move into this position in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Some babies, however, move into a breech position (bottom down). In this case, your doctor may use techniques to rotate the baby, and then suggest a C-section if these tricks don’t work.

Your health

Be mindful that your health can also influence birth. Delivering a baby vaginally requires a lot of power and energy on your part. So if you’re sick or have a medical condition the limits your physical strength or energy, you might be unable to push effectively, which could prolong your delivery.

Contraction strength

You may have weak uterine contractions, the tightening and relaxing of the muscles in your uterus, and while uncomfortable, they help push out your baby. When your contractions aren’t strong, it might take longer to deliver.

But while different factors can influence birth, understand that women of all sizes and shapes have the ability to birth babies of all sizes and shapes.

Don’t worry if you don’t have what would be considered childbearing hips. Having larger, wider hips isn’t always an indicator of whether you’ll have an easy birth experience.

Childbirth is a complex experience no matter the size or shape of your pelvis. Until you’re at the point where you’re ready to deliver, there’s no way to know how easy (or how difficult) your birth will be.

Either way, once delivery is underway, seek comfort knowing you’ll soon meet your little bundle of joy!