Pregnancy is a miraculous journey that culminates in the much-anticipated arrival of a new life. As you approach your due date, it’s natural to wonder when labor will begin and what signs to look for.
Here are some of the common signs that indicate you are going into labor.
The Baby Drops (Lightening)
As your body prepares for labor, the baby may “drop” lower into your pelvis. This process, known as lightening, usually occurs a few weeks before labor in first-time mothers but may happen close to delivery or not at all in subsequent pregnancies.
You may notice a change in your bump’s appearance, with a lower position and more pressure on your pelvis. This can lead to increased comfort as the baby takes the pressure off your diaphragm, allowing for easier breathing.
On the other hand, it tends to also put more pressure on your bladder, leading to an increased need to urinate.
Changes in Cervical Mucus
During pregnancy, a thick mucus plug seals the cervix to protect the baby from infections. As the cervix begins to dilate, this mucus plug may be expelled in a process known as “bloody show.” The expelled mucus may appear as a thick, blood-tinged discharge.
This can occur days or hours before labor and is a sign that your body is getting ready for the big event.
Many women experience a sudden burst of energy and an overwhelming urge to clean, organize, or prepare their home for the baby. This phenomenon is called “nesting” and often occurs in the final weeks or days before labor.
While it’s essential to listen to your body and rest when needed, this nesting instinct is a natural part of preparing for your baby’s arrival.
Diarrhea or Loose Stools
As your body prepares for labor, hormones called prostaglandins are released to help soften the cervix. These hormones can also cause the intestines to contract more frequently, leading to diarrhea or loose stools. While this can be uncomfortable, it is a common sign that labor may be imminent.
Persistent lower back pain, often accompanied by cramps similar to menstrual cramps, can be a sign of early labor. This back pain may intensify as labor progresses, and it is essential to monitor the intensity and frequency of these sensations.
When the amniotic sac ruptures, it releases fluid in a process known as “water breaking.” This event can occur as a sudden gush of fluid or a slow, steady trickle.
Once your water breaks, labor is likely to follow very soon, and it’s crucial to contact your healthcare provider promptly.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions, or “false labor contractions,” are generally described as a tightness in the abdomen that comes and goes. Unlike true labor contractions, these contractions:
- occur irregularly
- do not become more frequent
- do not increase with walking or movement
- do not increase in duration
- do not increase in intensity
Regular, Intensifying Contractions
True labor contractions are rhythmic, painful, and increase in intensity and frequency over time.
As a general rule, if you experience contractions that are consistently 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, for at least an hour, it’s time to contact your healthcare provider or head to the hospital.
Each woman’s experience may differ, but being aware of these common signs can help you better prepare for your baby’s arrival.
Always consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns or questions about your labor and delivery.