What are the Early Signs of Labor?
The eighth month of pregnancy is a nerve-wracking time for most women. You’re constantly aware of the process that’s just around the corner. You’ve got your midwife on speed dial. Sleep is elusive. Every Braxton Hicks contraction could be the early signs labor is starting. You’re constantly second-guessing yourself. Does this sound like you?
Feeling some anxiousness in your final weeks of pregnancy is perfectly normal. But constantly being on tenterhooks about going into labor causes stress that you just don’t need. If you know what to expect and know the difference between late pregnancy symptoms and the first signs labor is starting, you should be able to enjoy your final month of pregnancy with a little more peace of mind. Read on for our guide to the earliest stage of labor.
Early Signs Labor Will Begin Soon
There are quite a few telltale signs that your labor will be starting in the next couple of weeks, days, or even hours. They include:
Your baby will drop lower down into your pelvis ready for delivery anywhere between two weeks and a few days before you go into labor. You may notice that you waddle a little when you walk, and that, because of the added pressure on your bladder, you have less control and need to urinate more often. On the upside, the pressure on your stomach and diaphragm is released which means less pregnancy heartburn and breathlessness!
As your cervix begins to thin, you may notice your vaginal discharge is streaked with red, brown, or pink. As long as you’re not actually bleeding, the sign is perfectly harmless. It may happen hours or a few days before your labor begins or you may not notice it at all.
Passing the Mucous Plug:
You may also dispel the “plug” which has protected your uterus from bacteria up until now. This will be a thick, stringy discharge. Like the bloody show, it can be hours or days before the actual labor contractions.
Up until now, your baby has been surrounded by a sac of amniotic fluid. Close to the time of labor, the membranes will rupture and your waters will break. This happens at different times and in different ways for different women. If you are not already having contractions when your waters break, it is usually one of the early signs labor contractions will soon start.
The First Sign of Actual Labor
There is one sure way to tell that your labor has begun and your baby is finally making his or her way into the world: contractions. You’ll know when you’re having contractions because:
- They are regular: When your real contractions begin, the time between them will be evenly spaced, unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions. Start noting down the times they occur and the time they last, so that you can keep track of the intervals between.
- They become progressively longer, stronger, and closer together: As your cervix dilates and the time for birth draws closer, the contractions will become more painful and progressively closer together. They usually start at about 30 minutes apart and get closer and closer. When they are 5 minutes apart, your cervix will be close to being fully dilated and ready for delivery.
- Movement or changing positions will not ease the contraction: Sorry but, unlike uterine cramps or Braxton Hicks contractions, pacing and changing positions will not ease your pregnancy cramps. A back massage from your partner in between contractions can be really nice, though.
- They start in your lower back and radiate around to the front: (or sometimes vice versa). You are feeling your muscles hard at work in the first stages of labor. Remember the strategies you learned in your childbirth education classes and breath through it.
When Should I Call My Midwife?
Many women prefer to stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible, while others prefer to have professional support from the moment they experience the first early signs labor is beginning. But when is it important to seek professional help?
If your water breaks first: As we said, the membranes rupture at different times for different women. Sometimes, you are already having contractions and sometimes it is the first symptom of impending labor. Sometimes it is a sudden gush, and sometimes it’s more like a slow leak. When your water breaks, get in touch with your midwife or obstetrician to discuss your symptoms.
If you start having contractions first: It is a good idea to make contact with your midwife when the first contractions begin, but it’s probably not necessary to rush directly to the hospital at this stage. You could keep your midwife updated on the length, strength and time between contractions via text and he or she will let you know when it’s time to grab your hospital bag and go. If everything is going as it should, your contractions should come at closer and closer intervals and, when they are five minutes apart, it’s time to head to the hospital (or begin your home birth process).
More Pregnancy Articles and Advice
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