Curious about how labour will feel, how long it will last, and how to tell if it is a true or a false alarm? Since every woman’s experience differs, there is no way to precisely predict when labour pain will occur.
However, knowing the signs of labour pain will help you and your family prepare for the baby’s arrival.
Here are some common signs of labour pain you should look out for:
Signs That Labour Is Weeks or Days Away
Early signs of labour pain, also known as pre-labour symptoms, can appear from weeks to only an hour or two before active labour begins. Watch out for these signs.
1. Baby Drops
If this is your first pregnancy, your baby will drop (medically known as lightening) or descend into your pelvis a few weeks before labour begins.
It usually happens two to four weeks before, but it varies. Some women may not notice this occurrence at all.
This “lightening” typically occurs once you are in active labour. This signifies that your infant is preparing to exit, ideally with his head down and low.
2. Frequent Urination
You may find yourself waddling more than usual or having to urinate more frequently than you did in the third trimester.
Many women approaching labour could experience a frequent urge to urinate due to the low position of the baby’s head, which puts more pressure on the urinary bladder.
3. Easier Breathing
When your baby descends into the pelvis, your baby’s weight no longer presses on your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe more freely.
4. Increase in Discharge
Many women have an increase in vaginal discharge (leukorrhea) during pregnancy. The discharge amount can also increase in the weeks and days leading up to labour because the vagina prepares the baby to pass through the birth canal.
5. The Cervix Dilates
Your cervix begins to dilate (open) and efface (thin out) in the days or weeks leading up to delivery as it prepares to give birth.
During the third trimester of your pregnancy, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to measure and monitor cervix dilation and effacement. A fully dilated cervix means it has dilated to a width of 10 cm.
Dilation occurs differently in each woman, so don’t be discouraged if you’re dilating slowly or not at all.
6. Feel Cramps or Contractions
As you approach delivery, you may experience an increase in mild cramps or contractions that feel like a pounding, tightening, or hardening of the uterus.
The contractions, often known as Braxton-Hicks contractions or false labour, are irregular and happen at the end of the third trimester. They are usually milder than actual labour.
You might also experience cramping or a growing pressure in your pelvic or lower-rectal area.
These symptoms increase in severity and frequency as labour approaches.
7. Loose-Feeling Joints
Your ligaments loosen up slightly throughout your pregnancy thanks to the hormone relaxin, which is also to blame for any clumsiness you may have experienced in the previous trimester.
Your body’s joints may feel less tense and more relaxed before labour begins. It’s simply nature’s way of allowing your pelvis to expand so your baby can be born.
You may experience pre-labour diarrhoea as your due date approaches. This happens because your body muscle, including those in your rectum, are relaxing just like uterine muscles are in preparation for giving birth.
Remember, it’s completely normal; just stay hydrated.
9. Weight Gain Stops
Pregnancy weight gain often levels off near the end of your pregnancy. Some expectant mothers may lose a couple of kilos due to lower amniotic fluid levels, more bathroom breaks, and possibly increased activity.
This is normal and will not affect your baby’s birth weight. However, not everyone will experience a decrease in weight gain, and some pregnant women may experience increased swelling near the end of their pregnancy.
10. Fatigue and the Nesting Instinct
You may find it difficult to sleep in the final days and weeks of pregnancy due to your large belly and the compression of your bladder and other organs. This may result in fatigue or excessive tiredness. If possible, try to take naps to store energy for your delivery.
However, some mothers experience a surge of energy, also known as the nesting instinct, as their child’s birth approaches and can’t control the compelling urge to clean and organise everything in their sight. If you feel a surge in your nesting instinct, use it wisely and don’t go overboard.
Signs you’re about to go into labour
While the above signs indicate that your body is preparing for birth, if you experience these symptoms, you have most likely entered true labour. However, always consult your doctor to be sure.
1. Strong, Frequent Contractions
During labour, you’ll begin to experience regular severe contractions, which will become more frequent as time goes on.
Your contractions will progress in three ways: they will become stronger, longer, and more frequent. Every contraction begins in the lower back and spreads to the front, down the groyne.
A change in activity or position will not ease up or stop contractions. You may also be unable to walk or talk through labour contractions once they’ve progressed.
2. Bloody Show
During pregnancy, the cervix remains closed and mucus-plugged, acting as the cork that seals off your uterus from the outside world.
It’s your body’s defence against infection for your infant. However, as labour progresses, the cervix starts to soften, enlarge, and thin in preparation for birth, which causes the plug to fall out as a blob or a runny smear.
As the cervix continues to thin and open, tiny blood vessels rupture along its surface, diluting the mucus and giving it a brown (from old blood) or pink colour, referred to as a bloody show.
Remember that not all women notice it because it can dislodge gradually over time. But if you notice the mucus plug or even remnants of it, it could mean delivery is just days away.
3. Belly and Lower Back Pain
Your back may hurt the entire time you’re pregnant. However, if the pain intensifies or is confined to your lower back, it may indicate that you are going through back labour, which occurs most frequently when the baby is head down but facing forward.
Some pregnant women may also have back pain-like contractions or back pain that radiates to or from their back. Severe back pain may indicate that baby is about to come, whether or not you are in back labour.
4. Water Breaking
The only sign of labour pain shown in the movies is the water breaking, which isn’t entirely true!
Most women experience amniotic fluid leakage and ruptured membranes after other signs of labour pain have already started. Furthermore, you won’t necessarily lose it all at once; for some women, the start of labour feels more like a drip.
One of the last signs of labour pain that most women experience is their water breaking, which only spontaneously occurs in some women. So, you shouldn’t rely on it as a sure labour pain symptom.
Consult a doctor if you’re unsure about your symptoms.
Apollo Cradle Specialist
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