The first eight months of pregnancy are challenging, but the last few days leading up to the delivery are arguably the toughest. Most of the changes women go through early in their pregnancy are usually gradual and these women have time to get used to the discomfort, but the last few weeks, thanks to contractions, are not always so forgiving.
When a pregnant woman starts experiencing contractions, then she knows that the baby is getting ready to come out and join them in the outside world. As exciting as it might be to finally get an opportunity to hold the newborn in her arms, the end of the baby's stay in the womb is a clear sign that a woman should start getting ready for labor.
Many women, especially first-time moms, worry about getting to this point, since they know that they will go through one of the most difficult experiences they will ever go through. However, this process is not always as straightforward as most people think, because a woman can go through experiences she might think are signs that the baby is coming, yet the baby might not be ready to come out.
Some couples, especially those who are expecting their firstborns, might make a few trips to the hospital thinking that the time for delivery has come, yet their baby doesn't come. Here are 10 signs that a baby is ready to be born, and 10 others that show that the baby is not yet ready to be born.
20 The Baby's Here: No Longer Plugged In
During pregnancy, a woman's body creates a mucus plug to seal the cervical canal and to prevent any unwanted bacteria from getting into the uterus. This plug takes the form of a jelly-like discharge that appears to be slightly red. Losing the mucus plug is definitely one of the signs of childbirth. However, not all pregnant women get to lose this plug, since some never notice it and go straight to labor.
This plug dislodges when the cervix begins to open wider in preparation for delivery. Although the progression of labor after the plug drops varies from one woman to another, it is a sure indication that the baby is almost here. Some women go into labor within hours of losing this plug while others can wait for days.
19 They're Not Ready Yet: If She Experiences Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions, which are also called false labor, are the result of the tightening of the abdomen. They occur because the uterus is contracting in preparation for birth. These false contractions can easily trick soon-to-be moms into thinking their labor has started.
Braxton Hicks are different from real labor contractions in that they are very irregular, they usually subside when the mother moves around and are not progressive. They also just occur on the lower abdomen and are barely painful. Some women start experiencing them in their second trimester. Taking a warm bath or resting if previously active can help reduce them.
18 The Baby's Here: When The Water Breaks
The breaking of the water is one of the classic signs that the baby is finally here. Water breakage can occur as a big gush or it can trickle down slowly, but it is usually not as dramatic as it is in the movies. Some women may experience a popping sound when their water breaks.
Water breakage means the amniotic sac protecting the baby in the womb has ruptured and that labor will follow shortly. Some women may experience contractions before their water breaks and some never get to experience their water break, in such cases, doctors usually have to break the water in the hospital during labor. Once the water breaks it is advisable to go to the hospital because the risk of infection increases once the amniotic sac has ruptured.
17 They're Not Ready Yet: If She Experiences Sharp Sensations
Towards the end of their pregnancy, some women may experience sharp pains on either side of their abdomen, uterus, or groin area. However, this does not necessarily mean they are in labor or that the baby is here. The sharp pains can be attributed to ligaments that are stretching to support the growing uterus. This is usually very uncomfortable.
The pain gets even more intense towards the end of the pregnancy because the baby is getting bigger and the uterus is expanding further. Moms can reduce this false labor pains by trying to sit and relax, as well as to change positions. They should also ensure they drink a lot of water.
16 The Baby's Here: Strong Lower Back Pains
One of the signs that labor is around the corner is when women experience excruciating lower back pains. However, only a third of pregnant women experience this. The pain can even start a few weeks before labor but it is usually bearable when it becomes unbearable this is an indication that the baby is about to come.
Lower back pain occurs when the baby's head has moved towards the cervix but he or she is facing the mother's stomach instead of her back, therefore, causing strain on her spine. Even if the baby was in that position and decided to flip over, a mom can still experience the back pains due to sensitivity.
15 They're Not Ready Yet: If The Estimated Due Date Arrives
Very few women give birth on their actual estimated date of delivery because as the name suggests, the dates are estimates of when the baby is expected to be ready to pop out. However, when women get to their due date and nothing is happening, it does not necessarily mean that the baby is ready to come out. This is because due dates are estimates based on a woman's last menstrual cycle before she got pregnant.
Many things can lead to wrong due date estimates like a woman’s irregular periods, varying length of periods and approximation of ovulation dates. Some women can even go into labor weeks before or even after their expected due date.
14 The Baby's Here: Ripening Of The Lowermost End Of The Uterus
For labor to commence, a woman’s cervix has to become softer, thinner, and wider so that she can pass the baby from the uterus to the birth canal with greater ease in preparation for birth. People refer to this process as ripening of the cervix. Normally, a woman’s cervix will ripen naturally during labor. When this starts to happen, it is a sure sign that the baby is on the way.
For various reasons, some women do not experience this process naturally and end up requiring doctors to use some medication for this to happen. The doctor will opt for such medication when he or she is concerned about the mother’s health or that of the baby, or if the mother is way past her due date and does not have any signs of labor.
13 They're Not Ready Yet: If There Is No Dilation
Dilation occurs after a woman's cervix begins to ripen. Doctors measure the extent of dilation from zero to ten centimeters; with zero indicating that there is no dilation and ten indicating that the woman is fully dilated. Therefore, if the doctor reports zero dilation, the baby is not yet ready to come out.
It can take days or even weeks for dilation to occur and sometimes it can even happen without the woman realizing it. Once it begins, dilation will progress to the point that the baby's head can get past the cervix, but this is not always the case for all women. Doctors can result in inducing women who are facing challenges dilating.
12 The Baby's Here: Gradual Dilation Of The Lowermost End Of The Uterus
The dilation of the cervix can occur days or even weeks before labor. However, this process speeds up when labor commences. When a woman begins to dilate, she is not far from meeting her little bundle of joy. During labor, doctors check how far a woman has dilated to gauge how close she is to giving birth.
Dilation occurs in phases, zero to three centimeters shows that she is in the early stages of labor, from three to seven she is in the active phase of labor, and from seven centimeters, she is in the transition phase. When she gets to ten centimeters, doctors consider the dilation sufficient, signaling the baby is on the way. Every woman dilates at her own rate.
11 They're Not Ready Yet: If She Can’t Breathe Properly
Each woman's pregnancy is different from the next. Some women tend to have very high bumps while others have low, some bumps protrude faster than others do, and others appear to have bigger bumps than others do. However, during the last month of all women's pregnancies, they all have big bumps and they can barely breathe well because the bump is pressing hard on their lungs.
Therefore, if a mom cannot breathe well, it means the baby is not ready to meet the world just yet. One indicator that labor will soon begin is the baby settling and dropping towards the lower section of the mother’s pelvis. The drop makes breathing a lot easier and reduces the frequency of the heartburn.
10 The Baby's Here: Regular And Intense Contractions
Contractions are a good indication that the baby is about to come. When labor starts, women experience mild irregular contractions similar to cramps and with time they become more painful and regular. During contractions the abdomen becomes hard and relaxes in intervals, this process pushes the baby’s head down.
All women experience contractions differently and all subsequent pregnancies might be different. The only constant thing about contractions is that they're painful. As labor progresses, the contractions become closer to each other, last progressively longer, and are stronger. They never stop even when the woman tries to change positions; the only way to stop them is to get an epidural or to give birth.
9 They're Not Ready Yet: If There's No Labor Progression
Sometimes women experience signs that are almost similar to those of labor but they end up being false alarms. In some cases, they may experience contractions, which seem consistent but after a while, do not progress. They slow down or stop altogether. This is a clear indication that the baby is not here yet.
Before rushing to the hospital only to be disappointed, it is good to change positions, relax, or take a walk to see if the contractions will go away, especially if they are not painful. If labor does not seem to be progressing in any way, chances are it is not yet time for the baby to come.
8 The Baby's Here: The Baby Drops Lower - Lightening
When the baby is ready to come out, he or she will descend lower into his or her mother’s cervix, a process called lightening. This is very visible from the outside especially if the baby is in the right position. Lightening is one of the first signs that the body is getting ready for labor.
For first time mothers, the drop can occur days or even weeks before labor but for second timers, labor can commence hours after the drop. After lightening, soon-to-be moms find it easier to breathe. This is because the pressure that was on their lungs is no longer there because the baby is now lower, and as a result, the pressure moves to the mother’s bladder.
7 They're Not Ready Yet: If She Experiences Dehydration
Drinking enough water is one thing some pregnant women don't take seriously especially because of the exhaustion that comes towards the end of the pregnancy. However, dehydration is quite serious and can even cause preterm labor. During pregnancy, a woman’s body eliminates more water than normal and if she does not drink enough water to replace it, dehydration will occur.
Dehydration can trigger false contractions. It can also cause further complications, such as raising the body temperature. However, this does not mean the baby is due just yet. Drinking plenty of fluids can stop these contractions. Soon-to-be moms should ensure they stay hydrated at all times. They are more vulnerable to dehydration when they stay in hot and humid places for longer periods.
6 The Baby's Here: Stomach Upsets
When a woman’s body is getting ready to give birth, the muscles in her uterus relax and so do all her other muscles. This includes the rectum and the intestines and as a result, she may experience diarrhea. Although not all women experience this, loose stool just before labor is a good indication that the baby is here.
This is normal and actually, a wonderful thing, as it can help clear out the insides so she does not have the discomfort of constipation during labor. In addition, the hormones released by the body to help ripen the cervix can cause loose stool even during active labor.
5 They're Not Ready Yet: If She Goes Through A Dilation Examination
Towards the very end of the pregnancy, it is always a good idea for women to go see their doctors at least once a week. During such visits, the doctor might do a vaginal exam to asses the cervix and the effacement. While the process is very uncomfortable, it can stir up irregular contractions. They might not occur immediately but even after a few hours.
This does not mean that the baby is here just yet. Close monitoring of the false contractions will reveal that the pain will occur on irregular intervals, vary in length, and usually pass away with time. As a precaution vaginal exams should not be done often unless required because they increase the risk of pushing bacteria found in the vagina towards the cervix.
4 The Baby's Here: Pelvic Pressure
When lightening occurs, mothers usually experience a perceptible sensation of pressure in their pelvic area. When they experience this, some women feel as if their baby is about to fall out or they feel like a bowel movement is about to occur. This is a sign that the baby is almost here.
Mothers sometimes find it difficult to walk because they feel like they will hurt the baby’s head. Doing some pelvic exercises or finding some comfortable positions can help relieve the discomfort. Pelvic pressure can also cause back pains. This is a good indication that labor is not too far.
3 They're Not Ready Yet: If There's No Membrane Rupture
Membrane rupture is arguably the most obvious sign that labor has begun and that the baby is almost out. If a woman's membrane does not rupture, a process that is popularly known as water breakage, it might be a sign that the baby is not ready to come out of the womb. Actually, not all women get to experience their water breaking and gushing out.
Some women break their water after labor has commenced and others wait until their midwives or doctors break it for them, which is usually more painful. If a woman is experiencing false labor, no capturing of any membranes will occur just yet, which also means that baby is still not ready to come out.
2 The Baby's Here: Nesting
Nesting and restlessness towards the end of pregnancy are some of the lesser-known signs that the baby is almost here. Soon-to-be moms usually find themselves with a sudden spurt of energy where they start cleaning and organizing the house. They are so restless that they cannot just sit down and do nothing.
They will be constantly wiping and dusting everywhere partly because they are nesting and partly because of the anxiety of giving birth. Nesting is an instinct that a mother gets when preparing for her baby’s arrival. It is also a good way for them to stay active during the last days of pregnancy.
1 They're Not Ready Yet: If The Lowermost End Of The Uterus Is Still Thick
A woman cervix is able to tell you if the baby is ready to come out or not and a thick cervix definitely shows that the baby is not ready to come out just yet. As mentioned earlier, the cervix has to become thin, a process known as ripening, before it can begin to dilate. Cervix ripening is a complicated series of events in which many changes occur simultaneously.
It might not be normal to everyone, some women or the baby may encounter complications and the doctor may need to ripen the cervix using artificial methods. In such cases, oral or suppository meds can be used to ripen it. Otherwise, a thick cervix is an indication that the baby is not due.