Signs Of Labour: How To Know Baby Is On The Way
As your due date approaches, every cramp and discomfort can make you wonder, is it time yet? Am I in labour? Is nausea a sign of labour approaching? Getting your baby out of you and in your arms involves a long process. It doesn't matter if the actual labour is short and speedy, your body began preparing weeks before the real deal. Knowing what labour is and what signs to look out for will help provide clues that it's almost time to meet your baby! Below are some signs of labour that you might experience as the birth of your baby draws closer. But first, what is labour?
Labour is the process of childbirth. It begins with contractions in your uterus and it ends with the delivery of your baby.
Signs of Labour
Increased Braxton Hicks
These ‘practice’ contractions can start as early as 24 weeks, and are simply a tightening of the uterus. 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, though they’re not necessarily an early sign of labour.
If you’re a first-time mum, your baby will typically start to descend into your pelvis, a few weeks before labour. Subsequently, this “lightening” doesn't often happen until you’re well into labour. Lightening is your baby moving lower into your pelvis as he gets ready to come out. This is more obvious if your baby has been positioned right under your rib cage for the last few weeks. Expect people to exclaim ‘the baby has dropped!’ when they see you.
You might waddle even more than you have been up until this point. It also means more bathroom breaks as baby’s head is now pushing down on your bladder. The good news is that you can breathe easier now since your little one is moving away from your lungs.
Just as the muscles in your uterus are relaxing in preparation for birth, so too are other muscles in your body — including those in the rectum. And that can lead to diarrhea, that pesky little labor symptom you may well have experienced at other times during pregnancy. Though annoying, it's completely normal; stay hydrated and remember it’s a good sign!
Your Cervix Dilates
Your cervix, too, will prepare for the birth. It starts to open and thin out in the days or weeks before your delivery. The process is also called dilation and effacement. In those last weeks at your antenatal appointments, your doctor may measure and track dilation and effacement via an internal exam. But everyone progresses differently, so don’t be discouraged if you’re dilating slowly or maybe not at all yet.
Especially if this is not your first pregnancy, you may feel some cramps and pain in your lower back and groin as labour nears. It is because your muscles and joints are stretching and shifting in preparation for birth.
Your Joints Feel Looser
Throughout your pregnancy, the hormone relaxin has made your ligaments loosen up a little (it’s also responsible for your potential bouts of clumsiness this past trimester). Before you go into labour, you may notice that the joints all over your body feel a bit less tight and more relaxed. It’s only nature’s way of opening up your pelvis for your little passenger to make his way into the world.
You Stop Gaining Weight
Weight gain often levels off at the very end of pregnancy. Some mums-to-be even lose a couple of kilos! This is normal and won’t affect your baby’s birth weight. He’s still gaining, but you’re losing due to lower levels of amniotic fluid, more potty breaks, and perhaps even increased activity.
You Feel Super Tired
Between the active bladder and the exhaustion, sometimes you can feel like you’ve spent all day working on a construction site. That super-size belly can make it tough to get a good night’s sleep during the last weeks of pregnancy. Take naps during the day if you possibly can!
You may also notice the loss of your mucous plug. That's the cork sealing off your uterus from the outside world. It can come out in one large piece, or lots of little ones, though you may not get a glimpse of it at all and some women don't lose it before delivery. In the last days before labour, you may see thickened vaginal discharge. This thickened, pinkish discharge is called bloody show and is a good indication that labour is imminent.
These real labour contractions are different from Braxton's Hicks. You can tell them apart using the following pointers:
- stronger contractions that don't ease up
- they get more frequent and more painful, and sometimes fall into a regular pattern.
This is actually one of the final signs of labour that most women experience — and it happens in only around 15 percent of births or fewer. So don’t count on it as your only labour sign.
Still feel like you won’t know when to announce “It’s time!” and get ready to meet your baby? Try not to stress about it. You’ll be seeing your doctor or midwife frequently now, and she’ll help you spot all the important clues.