When an animal is about to go into labor, they have a series of behaviours that their mother did before them and their grandmother and so on. Like the mammals we are, humans also have maternal instincts that go into hyperdrive immediately before the birth. For many women, these instincts happen naturally and without much research.
Humans are marvellous; growing a small person in a small time is incredible, but it can take a toll on the health of the mother-to-be, the lifeline of her child. Finding out what the symptoms of pre-labor are can ease first-time jitters and fears about going into labor early and know when it is happening. After months of anticipation and care, the main event is here! There are some fun, new symptoms but it can also come with some repeat characters from earlier in pregnancy. Many of the symptoms will disappear immediately following birth. Feeling a little kooky? Those emotions and urges are natural and are preparing a mother for the whirlwind that is the newborn stage.
Whether the last week goes by quickly and without much discomfort or it feels like a million years, it will all be over soon. Remember, this too shall pass, and people were built for this.
20 Nesting Fever
The frenzy of needing to get ready for baby—nesting. Sure, some nesting happens throughout the entire pregnancy, but it intensifies the week or two before the baby is really coming. This could manifest in different ways depending on the woman. It could range from color-coordinating the baby's closet to scrubbing all the floors. It may be worsened by lack of sleep. The APA assures that nesting is really more of a wives’ tale and not every woman will experience it the same way—if at all. No worries if the urge never arises but if it does, stay safe and avoid harmful chemicals, heavy lifting and heights. Leave the ladder work to Dad.
19 A Sizeable Contribution
During these last weeks, it's easy to see the baby bump getting huge and low. This can start creating a waddle and if it hasn't already, making it hard to drive, do dishes or eat in a restaurant booth. Every mother feels huge during the last weeks. Mothers of multiples especially reach a size beyond what was expected in these final days. This is a perfect time to take some quick, classy photos of that marvelous bump. Parenting suggests getting a massage or asking a partner to rub the back to help relax during this grueling time. Stop and smell the roses with this fleeting moment.
18 Be Here Now: enjoy these last moments
Take in these last moments—the calm before the storm. Spending time with kids we already have before tackling the last of the stuff to do before the new baby comes is ideal. It will never be as easy to leave the house again as it is before the first born child. Quick And Dirty Tips agrees that this calm before the storm time is perfect to show current children how important they are and overall enjoy these last moments. Enjoy a few quiet evenings with your partner before you newest addition arrives. Having a baby changes life as we know it. It will never be the same, in the best way!
17 Pulling The "Plug": it's coming out
The passing of the mucus plug happens after the cervix shortens and begins to widen. The mucus plug plays an important role in keeping babies safe during pregnancy, but it may disengage up to a week or more before active labor starts. Sometimes it doesn't come out until the labor is well in progress. Rest assured it does regenerate. So moms who lose bits of the plug throughout pregnancy have nothing to worry about. It varies greatly from woman to woman with some ladies not feeling it come out. This is totally fine. WebMD shared that the mucus is pinkish and clear in color. One of the many fluids to encounter, the mucus plug will come and go; don’t read into it too much.
16 Spin The Baby (if it's breech)
After 34 weeks, babies generally move into the upside-down position to get ready for birth. Babes that do not turn by themselves are considered breech, and the path will most likely be discussed between Mom and her midwife or doctor to keep baby and mama safe. Some babies will do somersaults right up to birth. There are methods to help turn the baby if she is still breech. My Natural Baby Birth discusses how slight pinching and a few extra bathroom visits is a common way to know that the baby has turned. Getting the baby turned head down can lead to other relief as well as impending labor.
15 Deep breaths are possible because the baby has dropped
After the baby flips and moves head down, the head is in the pelvic area. The uncomfortable feelings we had before that caused months of shortened breaths are dissipating; suddenly, a space develops. This is medically known as lightning. The baby drops and Mom can take a deep sigh. Baby dropping into position allows space for the lungs to breathe air. WebMD reminds us that while we may breathe easier, the extra pressure on our bladder could send us running for the bathroom a few extra times a day. While not a surefire sign of active labor, being close by is a good idea when the baby starts getting ready to come Earthside.
14 Like A Water Balloon
The term “water breaking” is a colloquial term for the bursting of the two amniotic sacs surrounding the baby. For new moms, this is often the moment when they know they are going into active labor. Some mothers’ water doesn't pop until closer to delivery, while in rarer cases a baby is born with the amniotic sac still intact. This is called “en caul” by the French and is considered to be good luck in most countries. According to BabyCenter, there are a wide variety of experiences to water breaking—ranging from painful to gushing or hearing an audible noise when they’re sac popped. What will be happening when the “water breaks”?
13 They're not braxton hicks anymore, they're The Real Deal
Braxton Hicks contractions have been happening for months; they are relatively painless and go away with rest, water and deep breaths. Real contractions are not so gentle. Medicine Net discusses when contractions are less than ten minutes apart; it signals that the time is near. First-time moms are less likely to feel any real contractions until active labor starts. Seasoned moms, however, may start feeling contractions up to 2 weeks beforehand. All of the previous stages of pregnancy have been in preparation for birth as Braxton Hicks turn into the real deal. Our bodies have been preparing for this moment and its finally here!
12 Constant Cramps
Before the contractions come the cramps. Like the period that will not relent, that is. It’s uncomfortable and can take a moment to realize what is really happening. My Natural Birth agrees that these cramps are not the worst, but they are a teaser for the main event that will soon be here. These cramps tell the body to start dilating and to segue into go mode. My Natural Baby Birth talks about how they are usually a good indicator that the ball will be rolling shortly, but active labor could still take nearly a week or more to begin. The cervix is working super hard now that the baby has dropped.
11 Gotta go #2
With a stomach full of baby, it has been hard to eat for a while, but now your body is preparing for labor and making it easier to bring that baby Earthside. Diarrhea can be a symptom of the very beginning of active labor. Medicine Net confirms that pelvic pressure can feel like needing to have a bowel movement. This is a slightly less common pre-labor symptom that often comes with nausea, although some women will experience wide ranges of discomfort. Generally a sign of active labor beginning, every pregnancy is unique, and this could start happening a few days before labor actually begins.
10 Morning Sickness… Again?
For many, labor brings not only pain but also the queasiness of the first trimester. It is short-lived, and with so many things going on, it is usually more of a minor annoyance. Women have varying degrees of morning sickness in the first trimester. Meanwhile, others never stop feeling sick. Sutter Health explains that it can feel like flu-like symptoms and be accompanied by diarrhea. Eating can be very hard, but it is a good idea to try to eat something small, as most birthing centers only allow laboring mothers ice chips—regardless of preference. The things we endure for our children.
9 Dilation: From Cheerio To Softball
Another sign of entering active labor is dilation. On average, women are dilated as much as a Cheerio to start. At the start of dilation, the cervix is the size of a blueberry, and by the end of labor, dilation will be as large a bagel—or 10 cm—as reported by Healthline. Some doctors talk a lot about dilation and want to check on it frequently. It's good to be aware of, but it is not a guarantee. Thus, it’s best not to invest too much time or hope in cervical checks, since they can also introduce infection and even cause dilation to reverse. Better to relax and put those feet up before our bodies perform an impressive feat.
8 Showing Face: things get "ripe"
Once the baby flips, pressure is placed on the cervix which creates a “ripening” effect—also known as effacement. WebMD discusses how effacement is the thinning and shortening of the cervix, while dilation is stretching and opening. Healthcare providers may talk about the degree of effacement; 0% is no change, 50% is halfway and 100% is fully open. This process may be slightly uncomfortable but should not be super painful. Attending regular appointments with your healthcare provider is a great time to ask questions if anything feels strange. One more step closer to having a sweet baby to hold!
7 More Fluids
Along with losing the mucus plug, extra discharge can happen in the week before birth. Due to this and the postpartum experience, it's a good time to invest in some pads to avoid running out after the leaving the hospital—or to avoid unnecessary trips out for a home birth. Healthline reports that discharge changes as early as two weeks into pregnancy and will be at its heaviest right before going into labor at the very end. The mucus may have a streak of blood, and for that reason, it is sometimes known as the “show.” Don't be alarmed when excess discharge starts showing up.
6 Night Owl
Getting up to go three to four times a night—combined with the effort required to turn over—makes sleeping for long periods a special type of reward. Any way to get comfortable is acceptable and necessary. Maybe it's the body’s way of preparing for the sleeping and eating schedule of a newborn. WebMD explains how heartburn can be another common reason for waking in the middle of the night because the stomach muscles have relaxed and made it easier for stomach acid to escape back up the throat. Multiple naps throughout the day may work better or sleeping partially upright in a chair to find relief from all of these symptoms.
5 Restless Minds
Another symptom of impending labor is obsessive thoughts about the welfare and needs of the unborn child. Many women are on bedrest in the last weeks and are unable to release this nervous energy through cleaning or other nesting practices. Sutter Health confirms that these feelings of anxiousness are totally normal. It’s best to keep the mind occupied. Keeping a journal to keep track of questions, fears and hopes can be helpful to keep the mind busy and organized. It will also help when asking the doctor or midwife questions and should help assuage any fears. Women have been giving birth for millennia; it’s what we do.
4 Dig Deep
Stretch marks are a reality for many women due to the skin stretching to accommodate our growing babies. Some woman get zero the first pregnancy and the second time around, receive more than they ever expected. Others earn their stripes the first go ‘round, and still, some escape them through 10 kids. Staying hydrated, taking warm baths and eating foods with high amounts of collagen can help. Using an oil like almond, jojoba or coconut can reduce some of the tearing and alleviate the itchy feel of the marks. If you itch through the cream, consult your doctor. Genetics play a big part in how deep and how many stretch marks a woman may get. BabyCenter confirms that research suggests no matter how many oils and creams are used, some women will get stretch marks. Finding out if Grandma had stretch marks is a good indicator of the future. Remember to hydrate! They start deep within the skin, after all.
3 What's Up Doc?
In the third trimester, it is important to check on the health of the mama and baby. We do that with more tests and appointments. A low-risk pregnancy will generally require a lot less of that, and some moms go entirely unassisted because of this. The APA relays that non-stress tests can begin as early as 28 weeks. The test is non-invasive and is done for a couple of reasons. Add in the random sonogram, scheduled ultrasounds and doctor visits to discuss said findings. Get ready to lay it all out there because doctors will ask about everything from your health history in and out of the bedroom to how many times a day you have to pee.
2 In The Clouds
High blood pressure is one of the tolls taken for creating new life. It is also known as gestational hypertension and can develop into preeclampsia if steps to treat it are not taken. WebMD shared that gestational hypertension affects the mom’s organs and from there can impact the blood flow to the baby, resulting in a lower birth weight. Also, Mom could be in the hospital on bedrest before labor begins. Avoiding excessive salty, fried and sugary foods can help lower the risk of high blood pressure. While gestational hypertension does go away after birth, it could be viewed as a warning to think about heart health sooner.
1 You have to stay at home
While traveling can be safe for most of a healthy pregnancy, many airlines do not like to board moms-to-be once in their third trimester. Staying close to wherever we plan on giving birth is smart thinking, though. BabyCenter advises no air travel after 36 weeks and staying close to home is a safe bet. Who wants to deliver with a doctor they don’t know in a strange hospital anyway? Traveling long distances away from your midwife or doctor is not advised at this advanced stage since the baby could come at any time. While most moms will be nesting and settling in, sometimes life steps in and you have to travel. Your midwife or obstetrician can refer you to a like-minded physician at your destination if need be.