Am I experiencing early signs of labour? I have been nervously waiting and anticipating for this moment for months. As a pregnant woman, you may wonder how labour feels, how long it could take, or if what people say about it is true or false. Well, it could be difficult to answer these questions as every birth is different, but knowing what labour is about and its early sings can give you a clue that it is almost time for you to meet your baby. The early signs of labour include the following:
EARLY SIGNS OF LABOUR
- YOUR CERVIX DILATES (BECOMES WIDER): Your cervix begins to dilate as it starts to prepare for birth. It starts to dilate during the days or weeks before you give birth to your baby. During your ante-natal check-ups, your Doctor may measure and track the dilation of your cervix through an internal exam. But do not be discouraged if your dilation is slow or not dilating yet as everyone’s dilation progresses differently.
- YOU FEEL INCREASED BACK PAIN AND MORE CRAMPS: You may feel crampiness and pain in your lower back and groin as labour approaches. This happens as your muscles and joints stretch and shift as they prepare for birth.
- YOUR BABY DROPS: Your baby will start to drop into your pelvis a few weeks before labour starts if you are a first-time mom. This is usually around two to four weeks prior to labour, but it could vary. In subsequent births, this does not happen often until you are truly in labour. Your baby is getting into a position which will make him/her exit with the head down and low. You may be taking more bathroom breaks like you have been doing in the third trimester because your baby’s head is now pushing down on your bladder.
- YOUR JOINTS FEEL LOOSER: Hormone relaxin which makes your ligaments loosen up a little during pregnancy, is also responsible for softening and widening the cervix. You might notice the joints all over your body feel less tight a bit and more relaxed before you go into labour. This is like a natural way of opening up your pelvis to allow for the passage of your baby.
- CRAMPNG COUPLED WITH LOOSE AND FREQUENT BOWEL MOVEMENTS: This is your body’s way of emptying the bowels so as to allow the uterus contract well. This could cause indigestion and vomiting leading to diarrhea.
- YOU STOP GAINING WEIGHT (OR YOU LOSE SOME POUNDS): Weight gain often goes down towards the end of pregnancy, which is normal and will not affect your baby’s weight. Your weight gain decrease is due to amniotic fluid decrease as your water breaks. It could also be due to frequent bowel movements and increased urination as your baby’s head is now pushing down on your bladder. You could lose more weight as you are expelling more fluids from your body.
- YOU FEEL MORE TIRED OR YOU HAVE AN URGE TO REST: You may feel extra tired towards labour due to the extra weight you are carrying and as your bump gets bigger. You should get enough rest and sleep well as you are approaching labour.
EARLY SIGNS OF LABOUR: THE DAYS AND HOURS BEFORE LABOUR STARTS
- YOU FEEL STRONGER AND MORE FREQUENT CONTRACTIONS: Contractions are early signs of labour, except when they are not. You could experience Braxton Hicks contractions or practice contractions (your uterine muscles are flexing in preparation for the true labour. These contractions are not efficient enough to push your baby out the way true labor contractions are) for weeks or months before you give birth to your baby. You can differentiate between the real and false labour contractions via these signs:
- If you are active and the contractions get stronger instead of alleviating.
- If the contractions don’t go away even if you change position.
- If the contractions become more painful and frequent while they progress.
- Real early labour contractions mostly feel like a tight band that start in your back and spread to spreads across the front of your stomach. The contraction pain could be in the lower back, lower abdomen and it could spread down to the legs.
- Real labour contraction pushes your baby’s head down thinning and opening your cervix slow.
- YOU LOSE YOUR MUCUS PLUG AND YOUR VAGINAL DISCHARGE CHANGES CONSISTENCY AND COLOUR: Your mucus plug seals the opening of your cervix to prevent infection transfer to the womb. The loss of your mucus plug coming out of your vagina is referred to as “show”. It signals your cervix is starting to stretch and soften to get prepared for labour. Labour may begin soon after the discharge of the mucus plug, or it could be one to two weeks later. This thick mucus plug may be tinged with streaks of blood. It may be sticky or stringy in consistency. It could appear reddish brown in colour or as a pinkish jelly.
10.YOUR WATER BREAKS: This happens when the sac of the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in your womb breaks or bursts. Your water can break at any time during labour or at birth or it could be broken by your mid-wife to help start labour. It can happen as a small flow for a few days or as a sudden gush of liquid. If your water breaks, you should call Doctor or mid-wife. You are at risk of infection once your water breaks. Normal amniotic fluid is clear. A brown or green amniotic fluid is an indication your baby has emptied her bowels.
AM I EXPERIENCING EARLY SIGNS OF LABOUR? KNOW WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
If you think you are in labour and you are not sure yet, you should call your Doctor or mid-wife so that you can be advised on what is happening. You should always call if:
- If you experience any bright-red discharge or bleeding
- Your water breaks-especially if you observe a brown or green fluid, which could be a sign of your newborn’s first stool and could be dangerous if it is ingested by your baby during birth.
- You experience blurred or double vision, sudden welling or severe headache, which is characterized by a high blood pressure complication and needs medical attention.