When the time is nearing for delivery, anxiety and excitement build up. We know you can’t wait to see your baby and hold your little bub in your arms! At this time many moms wonder, “What are the signs of labor?”
This is especially important if you are a first-time mom. You need to know whether it’s actual labor or if it is just false alarm. Every pregnancy and birth is different and it is hard to predict when exactly labor begins. But let’s take a look at some common signs that you can look out for.
What is Labor?
Labor is when your baby is ready to be born and your body starts preparing for delivery. Labor is divided into four stages. The first stage is when your cervix begins to thin and open out. The second stage is when your baby passes through the birth canal, the third stage is passing of the placenta and the last stage is recovery.
How do you know if you are in labor?
#1: The baby drops
If you are a first-time mom, about two to four weeks before your due date, you will feel your baby drop into your pelvis. This means that your baby is getting ready to come out into the world by getting into position. This is known as “lightening” and usually does not happen for subsequent births until you are in actual labor.
One way to know if your baby has dropped is when you feel a lot of pressure on your bladder. This leads to more bathroom visits. You will also feel less pressure below your rib cage.
#2: No more weight gain
Weight gain stops at the very end of your pregnancy journey and some mothers even lose some weight. This is completely normal and your weight loss depends on lower levels of amniotic fluid, more visits to the bathroom, or it could be due to increased activity.
#3: You either feel super tired or get a burst of energy
The last month of pregnancy can be difficult for most moms because of the huge belly and compressed organs inside. Though it can be hard to get a good night’s rest, try and sleep as often as you can. If you are in the nesting phase and feel super energized, it’s okay to organize and prepare for your baby but don’t overwork yourself!
#4: Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are practice contractions and you may have felt this during your pregnancy. If they get very intense and frequent, this may mean that you are experiencing real contractions and are in labor. At this point, your cervix is starting to thin and widen.
#5: Widening of the cervix
A few days or even weeks before your delivery, your cervix will start to dilate (widen) or efface (thin out). Your midwife or doctor will most likely do a vaginal exam to see how wide your cervix has become. If you are giving birth for the first time, a dilation of 1 cm does not guarantee that labor is near. When your cervix is widening out a lot, it means your body is ready to deliver.
#6: Your joints feel loose
When you are going into labor your body might feel more relaxed and less tight. This is completely natural and it is your body’s way of allowing your pelvis to open up and deliver your baby.
#7: Passing of the mucus plug
Once your cervix dilates and effaces, and the closer you are to the actual labor, you may pass the mucus plug which is a big blob of mucus. This plug has blocked your cervical canal during pregnancy. This may come out in a single lump or it may be discharged slowly over several days. Sometimes the mucus may have a tint of red blood with it.
#8: Nausea or Diarrhea
Nausea happens mostly in the first trimester but you may experience it in the early stages of labor as well. In addition to this, the muscles all over your body will start relaxing including the muscles in your rectum. This can lead to diarrhea. Diarrhea is a common sign in many pregnant women which indicates that labor is not far away.
#9: You feel very strong and frequent contractions
Active labor contractions are different from Braxton Hicks contractions as the real ones only get stronger and stronger and don’t become easy. Braxton Hicks contractions will go away but real contractions start getting closer together and more intense. You may feel strong abdominal pressure or stomach upset and menstrual cramps.
#10: Water breaks
Your water breaking is one of the most prevalent signs of labor. The water contains all the amniotic sac fluid which is around your baby. It may either come out as a small trickle or a huge gush and when this happens, it is time to go to the hospital or call your midwife.
Labor signs may help you to identify whether you are in labor or not and may indicate what stage you are in. But sometimes you may be unsure. If the due date is near and you are not sure if you are in labor or not, it is always better to contact your doctor or midwife. Always stay on the safe side and seek medical attention if you are in pain or discomfort.