Almost all pregnant women would have one apprehension that would keep prodding them until they reach the delivery room; labor and its signs. Although every single woman out there would be well informed about labor and its signs, there would always be that slight of what exactly to expect as and when the due date starts nearing.
So if you are expecting your first child in the next couple of weeks and are pretty apprehensive about what to expect before and during labor, here is a guide that would help you out. Given below are some of the most common signs of labor. We have also added a few not so common but potential signs of labor as well.
Understanding True Labor
Almost all pregnant women would start experiencing mild contractions from time to time during the final weeks of the pregnancy. And although they may resemble labor, they are in fact false alarms that should be not confused with the real thing.
Called as Braxton Hicks, these false uterine contractions are just your body saying that it is getting ready for the real labor due in a few weeks. Although many women experience Braxton Hicks contractions only during the third trimester, some would experience them from the second trimester onwards.
Another important fact to make note of when it comes to understanding true labor is that the signs of labor would actually not start occurring only at the time of delivery. In many cases, the labor signs would start appearing even a few weeks before delivery and carefully need to be observed along with other signs to ascertain the time period when the true labor would start.
Most Popular Signs of Labor
Accordingly, here are some of the most common signs of labor you may experience as you near your delivery date.
Removal of the Mucus Plug
This is one of the most common signs of labor that would indicate that the baby is on its way either within a few hours or within a few weeks. The exact time would depend on the amount of secretion.
The mucus plug is a thick piece of mucous that covers the cervix and the uterine opening, thus preventing your baby from slipping out during pregnancy. A part of or all of this plug would be released as and when your cervix starts to dilate and expand. This would be seen in the form of a thick discharge in your panties.
Blood Covered Discharge
Simultaneous to the mucus plug secretion, you would start to notice a reddish brown mucous like discharge in your panties. This could also be considered as a potential sign of labor and is also caused by the cervix dilating and thinning for delivery. Again, the blood covered discharge could signal a potential labor within hours or a few weeks.
Water (Amniotic Fluid) Discharge
This can probably be the best possible sign to indicate that your baby would be coming out as soon as possible, maybe even within an hour. And even though many women start experiencing contractions before their water breaks, they would need to call their doctor or rush to the hospital as soon as the latter occurs.
So what exactly is this water and why does it signify an immediate pregnancy? The water is actually a fluid that is present in the amniotic sac that houses your baby. When the sac breaks, the water gushes out. In most cases, you would start noticing the fluid trickling out of the vagina. However, the water can gush out as well. If this occurs and you don’t get your contractions, then the latter would be induced in order to get your baby out as soon as possible in order to prevent infection.
Not to be confused with Braxton Hicks contractions, labor contractions occur when the cervix starts to open up in order to pass the baby out. And in sharp contrast to the contractions you would have experienced till now, these labor contractions would be stronger, longer, more frequent and extremely painful. These contractions will not stop even if you change your position. If you start experiencing these, then no doubt about it! Your baby is ready to come out within the next few hours.
Cervix Dilation and Effacement
With time, your cervix would start to expand (called dilation) and become thin (called effacement). This process usually occurs when the cervix prepares itself to allow the baby to pass through from the uterus. Your doctor would most probably be able to point out the sign during a routine checkup. If so, then you need to get ready for the delivery in a few weeks time.
Increase in Pelvic Pressure
Many women would start experiencing a significant increase in pelvic pressure as and when they near their delivery date. This would be due to the pelvic expanding to accommodate the baby. In certain cases, the person in question would almost feel as if her baby is about to fall out.
As your due date nears, your baby would settle down on the pelvic region, causing an increase in pelvic pressure as mentioned above. This movement can occur either a few hours, days or even weeks before the delivery. An increase in pelvic pressure would in turn place additional pressure on the bladder which would cause frequent urination.
Many women experience mild-severe backache during their pregnancy. Starting early into the pregnancy, the pain can in certain cases stretch throughout the pregnancy.
These back aches are usually triggered by the movement of the baby inside the womb and can be sometimes confused for normal back pain. If your back ache becomes constant or more painful to handle, chances are you may be experiencing true labor pains.
Soft Stools or Diarrhea
As and when your cervix starts to dilate, your body would release certain hormones called prostaglandins which are necessary for the dilation process. In addition to aiding in cervical effacement, these prostaglandins could also soften the stools, thus causing loose stools or diarrhea in certain cases. If you start experiencing this sign, then your labor would most probably start within a few hours or a day.
Some not so common signs of labor
Some women may seem to experience emotional mood swings more frequently a few days before their delivery. In certain cases, a pregnant lady would find it hard to sleep due to the increased pelvic pressure a few days before her delivery.
In very rare cases, a pregnant woman can experience severe headaches, contract fever or experience vision problems right before her delivery.