The Signs of Labor you need to know
As you are approaching the end of your pregnancy you will start to get indications that labor is approaching, but which are the signs of labor that you need to know? When should you take action? And what can you expect in the build up to going into labor?
Early Signs of Labor
You may get some, all or none of these signs that your baby will be arriving soon. You can have these signs of labor right before labor starts or a few days before so you may still have time to wait.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
Whilst you are pregnant you might feel your stomach tighten and then relax again. This can be Braxton Hicks Contractions which are essentially like practice contractions; your body having a go before the real thing. They can actually start way before you actually go into labor, but you might find that they get stronger as labor actually approaches.
What is the difference between Braxton Hicks Contractions and labor contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are not regular and they don’t last long. They are also uncomfortable rather than painful
Your Baby gets into position
Throughout your pregnancy your baby is busy changing positions and often doing somersaults in your stomach, but towards the end of your pregnancy they settle into their birth position. Ideally this means they settle head down into your pelvis. You might feel like you can breathe again as your baby moves down ready for birth and this can be an indication that your baby is getting ready so be an early labor sign. Your midwife or OB may use the term ‘the head is engaged’.
Don’t forget though that you should still be able to feel your baby move right up to and during labor. You can get advice about your baby’s movements here and if you are at all concerned contact your midwife or birth centre immediately.
You could have a ‘show’
This is when the mucus plug that blocks the entrance to your cervix during pregnancy comes out. It doesn’t always happen in advance and it doesn’t happen to everyone. If you do have a show you may see it in your underwear. It is typically a bit pink due to bloodstaining, but to be clear it isn’t bleeding. If you are losing blood then you need to contact your midwifery team immediately. You should also contact them if you have a show before 37 weeks.
A show doesn’t necessarily mean that labor is starting right now. It can happen hours or even days before labor starts.
Diarrhoea or Nausea
Another delightful one of the early signs of labor can be an upset stomach with either diarrhoea or nausea. Towards the end of pregnancy an upset stomach could be an early sign of labor as it can be an indication that the labor hormones are present in your body.
Signs that Labor has started
So we have looked at the indications and early signs of labor approaching, but what are the signs and symptoms that tell you labor has actually started. Even if you haven’t had any of the early signs of labor or any clues that your baby is about to arrive (except that you are full term) then these are the signs of labor starting that you need to look for:
- Pains that feel like strong period pains (the start of contractions)
- Lower back pain
- An urge to go to the toilet when you don’t actually need a bowel movement
- Your waters breaking
Your contractions might not be regular to start with and they may stop and start or slow down and speed up, but once labor is really established they will become regular, more intense and they won’t stop. The time to call your midwife or hospital is when you are having contractions that last 30-60 seconds and are 5 minutes apart.
Trust your instincts mamas! You will know when you are in labor and if you are at all concerned call your health professionals.