It’s the event you have been happily (and nervously) anticipating for months: Your baby’s birth! But, the one question you’ll want the answer to is: How do I know when labour is starting? Many expectant mothers has wondered how labor will feel. Also wondered how long it will take and how to know whether it’s the real deal or just a false alarm. Just relax !. Most labour’s begin gently, gradually developing over hours or even days (sorry!).
The truth is, there is no definitive answer to this, it varies a great deal. Because, every woman’s experience of labour is different. Sometimes it’s a slow build up of contractions and other times it’s a dramatic event like your waters breaking.
But don’t worry! Be prepared for some false alarms, especially if it’s your first pregnancy, but trust your instincts. You will almost definitely know when you have gone into labour. But let’s get right into it – what signs of labour might you notice?
Signs of labour that tells you baby is on the way
1. Your baby descends
This occurs if you are a first-time mother. Your baby will typically start to drop or descend into your pelvis. It mostly happens a few weeks before labour begins usually around two to four weeks before, but it can vary. In subsequent births, this “lightening” doesn’t often happen until you’re truly in labor. Your baby is getting into position to make his exit. Ideally the head is down and low. You may still be visiting the bathroom more frequently. Even sometimes, you experience leakage of urine. This is because your baby’s head is now pushing down on your bladder. Besides that, you will be relieved from heartburn and also breath better. Because your photocopy is moving away from your lungs.
2. Discharge of pinkish/red mucus ‘blob’ from the vagina
It’s a plug of gel that has been protecting your uterus from infection during your pregnancy.
It’s also known as a “show”. This is usually a sign that labour is near and will happen in the next few days. Although it can become dislodged a few weeks before labour starts. If there is a lot of blood, you should contact your maternity unit, as this could be a sign that something is wrong.
3. Increase in contractions
Regular contractions are a good indicator that you are in labour. Early labour contractions usually feel like period pain, or you might experience a lower backache at 20 to 30 minute intervals. You may feel your entire abdomen harden, and then relax again. These contractions can be uncomfortable, but are typically not painful. Towards the end of your pregnancy they may come more frequently. Although they’re not necessarily an early sign of labour.
4. Lower back pain
An ache in your lower back can mean your baby is rotating into the right position for labour. You may notice a dull aching pain in your lower back. You don’t need to contact your doctor or midwife though, this is just a warning sign that everything is about to start. Get through the discomfort by putting your feet up. You can also ask your partner for a back rub and have warm a bath.
5. Your waters break
This happens when the fluid filled sac which surrounds the baby ruptures. This results in amniotic fluid trickling or gushing from your vag*na. For some it’s just a little trickle whiles for others it can be a gush. Surprisingly, this precursor to labour is a first symptom in fewer women. It may actually occur during labour instead of before it. But when it happens prior to labour, there’s a good chance that labour will start within 24 hours. If your water breaks, notify your doctor or midwife immediately. Note the time it breaks, the colour and amount of fluid, and whether there is any foul odour. Report all of this information to your healthcare provider.
As labour is near, you might notice diarrhoea. The body naturally empties the bowels to make way for baby. Many women are afraid that they will move bowels during labour. Usually the emptying of the bowel prior to going into labour prevents that. Sometimes there is passing of stools during labour. Some women don’t even notice as midwives quickly attend to it. Anxiety in labour can also slow your contractions. If this happens, increase the amount of water you’re drinking and hold off on milk or sugary drinks. Because this can make your diarrhoea worse. Try eating bland food such as rice to keep your energy levels up.
7. Your cervix dilates
Your cervix too, is starting to prepare for birth. It starts to open and thin out in the days or weeks before you deliver. At your weekly check-ups in the home stretch of your pregnancy. Your care provider may measure and track opening and thinning via an internal exam. But everyone progresses differently, so don’t be discouraged if you are dilating slowly or not at all yet.
Don’t rush to hospital but do let your midwife know what’s happening. Instead try to chill out. Established labour is usually when you have three, one-minute contractions in the space of 10 minutes. When the contractions become so intense, you struggle to talk, you’ll know it’s definitely time to head to hospital.