You have finally made it to 37 weeks and your caregiver has told you that you are full term and anytime from now, labour may begin. After waiting 9 months to meet your little one, these last few days or weeks can seem excruciatingly slow. As each day, you wake up and wonder if this is the day you’ll meet your baby. But be prepared, you could be waiting another 5 weeks, as some babies aren’t born until the 42nd week.
We discuss the 5 top signs that true labour has started…
1. Spontaneous rupture of membranes
So, everyone knows the most Hollywood cliché sign that you are in labour – that pop sound and a gush of water flooding onto the floor. Commonly known as ‘spontaneous rupture of membranes’ (SROM) or your ‘waters breaking’. This happens when the amniotic sac (the fluid that is surrounding your baby) ruptures or breaks.
However, it is not as common as you may believe. And for some women, the waters don’t break until the final stages of labour. Some women may even experience a slow leak for days leading up to the onset of labour. So how do you know if your waters have broken? After all, a common question is often, ‘Have my waters broken? Or did I just wet myself?’ Bladder leakage is quite common in the final stages of pregnancy.
When in doubt, pop a pad in your underwear. Urine has a distinct smell. If it does not smell like urine, your waters may have broken. Contact your caregiver. Amniotic fluid will be clear or have a pink tinge to it. If it is brownish or green or has a foul odour, make sure your mention it to your caregiver.
2. Mucus plug, aka your ‘Show’
There is a thick mucus plug sealing off your cervix during pregnancy and preventing infection. Part or all of this can come loose in the lead up to labour as your baby’s head presses on your cervix and it begins to open. This does not always happen, and some babies are born with their mucus plug on their head!
The mucus plug might be watery with a brown, red or pink tinge to it. It might also be jelly-like and sticky. We have heard it described as looking like your vagina has sneezed!
If you lose your mucus plug, it doesn’t mean labour is imminent. It may still take a few days before the first signs of labour appear.
This will feel like your body is cleaning itself out. It is completely normal. The production of prostaglandins will cause your bowels to open more frequently.
You may feel like you can breathe easier as your baby settles into your pelvis and reduces some of the pressure on your diaphragm. Some women refer to this as your baby ‘dropping’. Once your baby moves down, you may find there is more room for your lunges (and other vital organs). The downside is that now the pressure is transferred to your bladder and you have to run to the toilet more often.
You may feel like you can breathe easier as your baby settles into your pelvis and reduces some of the pressure on your diaphragm. Some women refer to this as your baby ‘dropping’. Once your baby moves down, you may find there is more room for your lungs (and other vital organs). The downside is that now the pressure is transferred to your bladder and you have to run to the toilet more often.
Some practise contractions will not form into true labour. For our article on Braxton Hicks, click here. However, if you time your contractions and find that they are regular, it is often a good sign that you are in early labour. The length of your contraction is timed from the start of your contraction to the end of it. How far apart your contractions are will be timed from the start of one contraction to the start of another contraction. In the initial stages of labour, the pain feels a little like bad period pain, it can even become quite severe.
Once you know they are regular, stop timing them and try and ignore them. Go about your day or try and get some sleep if it is night time. Change your position and distract yourself as much as you can. Early labour is the longest phase and if you focus on them too much, you may use up all of your energy.
If it feels like the contractions are getting stronger and lasting longer, try and time a few more. You should notice a difference in the length and regularity when compared against the ones you timed earlier.
A good sign that you are in early labour is when your contractions are a minute long and are coming every 3 to 5 minutes. Listening to your body is key. What you will notice is they become longer, stronger and closer together. They will also feel like they build up to a peak and then reduce.
And when you get to a point where you can’t talk through them, you are in active labour. Even better! Congratulations!!
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