As the end of your pregnancy draws near, the anticipation of labor begins in earnest. Was that a real contraction or just Braxton Hicks? Is that amniotic fluid leaking, or just another late pregnancy dribble? There are so many questions about labor— even for mom’s who have been there before.
Remember to talk to your practitioner early in your third trimester. You’ll want to find out exactly what signs and symptoms they want to be notified for, and when they want you to come in. Also, if you’re having signs of labor and you haven’t reached 37 weeks, be sure to call your doctor right away—premature labor is nothing to wait around with.
If you’re full term and are wondering if the time for your baby’s arrival is drawing near, here are ten signs that you are in labor:
10 #You Have Diarrhea
Your body prepares for birth in numerous ways. To begin with, it sends various hormones and hormone-like substances throughout the body to help prepare for the upcoming process. Prostaglandins are one of these substances. These help your cervix begin to soften and dilate. Additionally, prostaglandins can cause contractions, and often have an affect on your bowels.
The emptying of the bowels makes room for baby’s descent. Therefore, diarrhea is often a sign of early labor. Some women experience just a bout of soft stools, and others find themselves becoming very friendly with the toilet with a more severe case of diarrhea.
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to help your body recover from diarrhea, and that’s true even during labor. If your doctor has not indicated otherwise, keep sipping on water as long as you can. You need to replace the fluids that you are losing.
9 #You Have Contractions That Don’t Stop With a Change of Activity
Braxton Hicks contractions are common during the third trimester of pregnancy. Though they’re often referred to as fake contractions, but there is nothing fake about them. They hurt a lot! Remember that they’re slowly preparing your body, and offer a great opportunity for you to practice breathing.
However, it can be hard to tell when Braxton Hicks stop and real labor begins. One way to test for real labor is to stop a moment and change your activity. If you’re lying in bed, get up and walk around for a bit, or tend to a task on your to-do list. If you’re already up and about, go to the couch or your bed and lie down for a while.
A Few Signs
If the contractions stop or slow way down, you are not yet in labor and what you are experiencing are just Braxton Hicks. True contractions will continue even with a change in activity. Feel free to get back to what you were doing before you stopped, but pace yourself—you want to make sure to be rested during your impending labor!
8 #Your Water Breaks
While the other signs and symptoms of labor can come and go, and don’t mean labor is immediate, your water breaking is different. The rupturing of your membranes and gush of amniotic fluid do indeed signal labor. It’s for real, right away. However, Not every woman will experience a gush of fluid when her water breaks. A slow trickle is also common, though not quite as sensational.
Anytime you think your water has broken, contact your doctor or midwife right away. Many will want you to come in immediately, so make sure your bags are packed early in your third trimester. That way you’re ready to go when the time comes.
Steps to Take
How do you know if you just had a late pregnancy trickle of urine or if your water broke? One way to tell is to put on clean underwear and a pad and lay down for a few minutes. If you’re continuing to leak, it was almost certainly your membranes. You can also give the fluid a quick sniff test. Urine smells like ammonia. Amniotic fluid has more of an earthy, sweeter smell. You can also look at the fluid. Amniotic fluid tends to be clear while urine is darker.
If you still can’t tell, call your practitioner. They can examine the fluid under a microscope and tell right away if your water broke. It’s better to go in and be sent home than to stay home wondering and end up delivering a baby alone.
7 #Your Contractions Are Coming Closer Together And Are More Intense
Braxton Hicks contractions don’t usually follow a timed pattern and they often stay at the same intensity. If you’re wondering if you’re in labor, try timing your contractions to see if they are getting closer together. There are some great apps for smartphones and computers now to keep track of your contractions, or you can use a good old fashioned pencil and piece of paper. Just keep track of the time when each contraction starts and when it ends.
True contractions will also become more intense over time. You may feel them in both the front and back, as your uterus contracts even more. You can’t ignore the intensity of true labor.
A Major Symptom
If you can still walk and talk through your contractions, you’re either having Braxton Hicks or just in the early stages of labor. You will feel the difference.
6 #Your Cervix Is Dilating & Effacing
Many practitioners check for cervical changes at your appointments as your due date draws near. By inserting a finger into your vagina, they’re able to tell if your cervix is opening or thinning out. Both need to happen before your baby can come out.
You will dilate to a ten before the pushing stage of labor begins. However, dilation is not the only change your doctor will look for. Your normally hard cervix needs to soften, and thin out—virtually disappearing as it becomes paper thin to allow your baby to come through. This process is known as effacement.
Something to Remember
Please take note that some women walk around dilated to a two or a three for weeks before labor begins. Others have a closed, hard cervix and give birth hours later. Each woman’s body changes at a different rate, and dilation and effacement do not always mean that labor is immediate.
5 #Your Baby Drops
Before your baby comes out, he or she will need to drop into your pelvis. This is known as engagement in the medical world and just means that your baby’s head has entered your pelvic bones. The baby is in a position to help your body with the labor process. You’ll probably notice a shift in the way your baby bump looks, and you’ll be hanging lower.
First-time moms will likely drop before labor begins. They could even walk around for weeks feeling like a basketball is between their legs. That’s because their baby’s head is right there. Moms who have given birth before will likely not experience dropping until the beginning of labor, though this isn’t always the case.
Point to Ponder Upon
Just because your baby has dropped doesn’t mean labor has begun. As mentioned before, you could walk around for weeks like this, but in case it is troubling you, make sure that you get in touch with your doctor or midwife right away.
4 #Your Joints Hurt or Feel Loose
As your body prepares for labor, your joints relax. This is important, as it allows your pelvis to open up further than it normally would. However, it’s not just your pelvis that will be affected.
You may notice an ache in your knees or weird movement in your elbows. Every joint in your body will loosen, and that process can bring a host of aches and pains. You might also find yourself more flexible during this time, so be careful not to overdo anything and cause lasting damage. Just because you suddenly feel like you can easily do a backflip does not mean you should!
Instead of getting all worked up, relax. Your body is very sensitive during pregnancy and you need to relax to make things easier for it as you go into labor.
3 #You Lose Your Mucus Plug
Ah-the mucus plug. It serves an important role during pregnancy by sealing your cervix from bacteria and protecting your growing baby. But, before your baby can come out, that seal has to go. Your mucus plug can come out in pieces of blood tinged mucus, or in one whole wad of slimy goo.
Some women will lose their plug weeks before labor begins, and others will lose it right at the beginning of labor. Your body could even regenerate part of your plug if you have only lost a bit. Nevertheless, losing your mucus plug is definitely a sign that labor is getting closer!
It’s All Good
It’s hard to say when you will go into labor after losing your mucus plug. However, the one thing that you can be assured of is that it’s a sign that things are moving in the right direction!
2 #You Have Bloody Show
Losing your mucous plug can begin your bloody show. However, the mucous plug is not always accompanied by blood. Hence, having bloody show is not limited to your mucous plug—they are two different terms and signs of labor.
Bloody show means that you have bloody mucous coming out of your vagina. The blood could be brown, pink, or a darker red. It usually becomes more noticeable as labor continues. If you ever have severe, bright red bleeding, be sure to get medical attention right away. That can be a sign of placenta previa, a major medical problem.
Don’t Overlook Things
The bloody show tends to appear just before or in early labor. It is only a small amount of blood, so if you’re bleeding a lot, make sure that you get in touch with your doctor right away.
1 #You Suddenly Feel Exhausted
Giving birth is hard work. It takes a toll on every part of a woman’s body. Therefore, it makes sense to be fully rested before starting the process. Sometimes, a woman will need a reminder to take a rest. She gets so focused on nesting and her to-do list that she pushes herself harder than she should.
Often, prior to the start of labor, her body will make her take a rest. It’ll bring on a case of exhaustion that isn’t just normal fatigue. Be sure to listen to your body. If it asks you to stop and rest—do so. You want all the strength you can muster for the birthing process.
What If I Can’t Tell if I’m In Labor or Not?
Some women will experience all of these symptoms, and others will not. Labor doesn’t follow a set pattern for everyone, and it’s unlikely that you’ll actually experience a textbook labor process like your doctor will describe. Your body is different.
If you’re wondering if you are in labor, change your activity. Rest as much as you can. Drink water. Call your doctor if you’re ever concerned. He or she will be able to give you more indications to look for, or have you come in to see if you are truly in labor. Don’t ever feel bad about going in for a false alarm. Your doctor has seen it before. They’d rather you be safe than sorry. Listen to your body, and get to the doctor sooner rather than later.