Unless you have a scheduled c-section, it is highly likely that your baby’s birthday occurs between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after your due date. Fortunately, there are some pre labor signs that your body will use to let you know the big day is coming. This article will help you to learn the main signs that labor is near so you can be ready for your newborn and the end of your pregnancy.
What are Early Signs of Labor?
Pay attention to your body to identify the first signs of labor and be able to prepare for it. Continue reading to see the main early labor symptoms:
Weight Gain Stops
Some women lose up to 3 pounds before labor thanks to water breaking and increased urination. Nevertheless, you will be able to notice that your weight will stop increasing towards the end of the third trimester.
Commonly, you will feel exhausted by the end of the third trimester. Despite your pregnancy making it hard to rest, try to do so. Labor is coming and you will need lots of energy.
One of the signs that labor is near is an increase in vaginal discharge. As your body practices lubricating your birth canal, it is possible that your vagina releases more mucus.
Urge to Nest
Another of the most common early labor symptoms is the presence of energy and an urge to nest. This urge will consist of the desire to organize, clean, and prepare for the baby. Despite how you feel this sudden burst of energy, try not to overdo the physical labor.
Although this is probably one of the least pleasant signs that labor is near, it is another way your body uses to let you know the big day is coming. About one or two days before labor, the prostaglandins start softening your cervix to help it open. However, these hormones also could cause diarrhea. The bright side is that this will empty your bowels and allow your uterus to contract more efficiently during labor.
Besides suffering from common gynecological issues, women also have a hard time during pregnancy, and back pain is an example of this struggle. Although back pain will come and go, it could be one of the first signs of labor if it gets remarkably worse.
Another hormone that increases when labor begins is relaxin. Not only does it help your pelvis to widen, but it also affects the rest of your joints. Therefore, it is possible that you feel clumsier than usual.
The Baby Drops
In preparation for birth, the baby’s head will begin to drop into the pelvis. This could happen anywhere from a few weeks to a few hours before active labor starts, and it is called lightening. As a consequence, you might feel pelvic discomfort and experience increased urination.
At the end of your uterus, there is a thick connection called the cervix. While it remains long and closed during pregnancy, the cervix becomes shorter and thinner as labor nears. Despite your cervix also beginning to dilate (open), you will not feel any of these pre labor signs. Thus, your doctor will do an exam and check the dilation, as it is what an OBGYN does. Eventually, your cervix will dilate 10 cm right before the delivery.
Once your cervix has started dilating, the sticky plug of mucus that seals it will start to disintegrate. Therefore, another of the signs that labor is near is the presence of a thick, blood-tinged discharge a few days before labor. Although it is usually called “the bloody show”, its color will not be bright red, so make sure to call your doctor immediately if you see bright red blood.
What are the Signs of Going into Labor?
Although for 15% of women water breaking is what triggers labor, most women will experience their water breaking after labor has started. Water breaking will be identified as noticeable wetness, from a trickle down your legs to a gush. It is caused by the breaking of the amniotic sac membranes, which will release amniotic fluid. This liquid will pass through your cervix and out of your vagina. It is very important to notify your doctor if you think you are leaking fluid, as it could let infections up into the uterus and harm your baby. Always keep in mind that your health and your baby’s health is important, so do not hesitate to ask your doctor any questions about pregnancy or labor.
Braxton Hicks abdominal tightenings have prepared your body for labor so far, but they do not significantly dilate your cervix. They are unpredictable, not too painful, and can be eased by changing position or walking. Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions, the real labor contractions are regular, painful, and cannot be eased nor stopped. As these contractions are meant to dilate your cervix, they will be strong and more and more frequent. They can feel like strong menstrual cramps, stomach upset, or terrible back pain.
How Do You Know It Is Time to Go to the Hospital?
As there is a week when pregnancy symptoms start, there is also a time for the pregnancy to end. You will know the big day has come when your contractions are more frequent and intense. Time your contractions to know how far apart they are and how long they last. Your doctor will want to know this information to be able to advise you on when to go to the hospital. In false labor or prodromal labor you might have contractions that last about a minute each and come about every 5 minutes but then after 30 to 45 minutes the contractions start fizzling out. This might happen a few times the last week, before your real labor will eventually set in.
The rule of thumb is to go to the hospital when your contractions keep coming every 5 minutes for more than an hour. However there is no hard and fast rule since it all depends on how dilated your cervix was at your last doctor’s visit, how many deliveries you’ve had before this pregnancy, and how fast you delivered with your previous pregnancies. Although every labor is unique and not easy to predict, chances are if this is your first pregnancy, and your cervix was barely dilated at your last doctor’s appointment that you can labor at home for at least a couple of hours before heading to the hospital to get your cervix checked. On the other side if this is your 5th delivery and your cervix was dilated to a 4 cm at your last doctor’s visit, that you shouldn’t wait for a full hour before heading to the hospital. When in doubt, call your doctor. Regardless, keep in mind that if your water breaks or there is a presence of significant bleeding, you need to head to the hospital immediately.