It’s been more or less nine long months, and you are probably eager to get rid of this humongous bulge, and hold your precious baby in your arms. So when is it going to happen already? Some mothers start their labor with a bang, and progress quickly. Others ease into labor slowly and progress gradually.
Here are some signs to watch for that tell you labor is near!
1. Dropping. Some time during the final few weeks you may notice that your baby has moved down lower in your abdomen. Most first-timers notice their babies dropping within two weeks of delivery, though some mothers “drop” as many as four weeks before D-day. Second-time mothers often find their babies do not drop lower until labor begins, because mom’s pelvic muscles have already been stretched, and no warm-up is needed. Baby’s head settling into the pelvis is also called “lightening” (because the lower-riding load seems smaller and lighter) or “engagement” (since baby’s head engages the pelvic opening). Whether baby “drops,” “lightens,” or “engages,” you will feel and look different. Your breasts probably no longer touch the top of your abdomen. You might be able to sense baby’s head resting just beneath the middle of your pelvic bone.
2. Frequent urination. Now that baby’s head lies closer to your bladder you may be going to the bathroom more often.
3. Low backache. As baby gets heavier and drops lower, count on some aches or pains in your lower back and pelvis as your uterine and pelvic ligaments are stretched even more.
4. Stronger Braxton-Hicks contractions. You may notice that your warm- up contractions go from feeling uncomfortable to being rather painful like menstrual cramps. Even though these prelabor contractions are not as strong as labor contractions, they are strong enough to be starting the work of thinning out, or effacing, your cervix from a thick-walled cone to a thin-walled cup. While these contractions will get even stronger just prior to labor, they can continue this way, on and off, for a week or two before labor starts. They become less intense when you change position or start walking.
5. Diarrhea. Birth hormones acting on your intestines may cause abdominal cramps and loose, frequent bowel movements — nature’s enema, emptying your intestines to make more room for baby’s passage. Those same hormones can also make you feel nauseated.
6. Increased vaginal discharge. You may notice more egg white or pink- tinged vaginal discharge. This differs from the “bloody show.”
7. Bloody show. The combination of baby’s head descending into the pelvic cavity and the prelabor contractions thinning the cervix can “uncork” the mucus plug that previously sealed the cervix. The consistency of this mucus varies from stringy to thick and gooey. Some women notice the one-time passing of an obvious mucus plug; others simply notice increased blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Some of the tiny blood vessels in your cervix break as your cervix thins, so you may see anything from a pink to a brownish-red-tinged teaspoonful of bloody mucous. If your discharge shows more blood than mucus – like a menstrual period or a lot of bright-red blood — report this to your practitioner immediately. Once you notice a bloody show, you are likely to begin labor within three days, but some mothers hang on for another week or two.
8. Bag of waters breaking. Only 1 in 10 mothers experience their bag of waters breaking prior to labor. For most mothers this doesn’t happen until they are well into labor. If your water breaks before labor has started, plan on your labor starting intensely within the next few minutes or hours, or at least within the next day.
For more labor and childbirth information, please visit Dr. Sears.
Feature image from Real Simple.