Going into labor is an incredibly daunting experience for any mother-to-be, as it indicates that your baby is finally here. But how does one know for sure that labor has begun? Here are seven signs that prove you are in labor and must consult a doctor immediately for your newborn’s arrival.
Your Water Breaks
The phenomenon known as “water breaking” is one major sign that you’re ready to deliver your baby. During pregnancy, your baby is covered in an amniotic fluid pouch which protects it from injury and infections. As you reach labor, or even before it, the pouch bursts, and the amniotic fluid seeps or gushes out of the vagina. A preventative tip to keep your surroundings from getting soaked is to keep sanitary towels and sheets nearby. Sometimes, urine can leak out upon the amniotic pouch bursting due to your uterus sitting atop your bladder. Please pay attention to its color and odor to determine whether the liquid leaking out is amniotic fluid or urine. Amniotic fluid is always a clear and odorless substance with initial traces of blood. If the liquid leaking has a pungent odor or heavy traces of blood, there may be a complication in pregnancy, and you must consult a doctor immediately. If the leaking is of amniotic fluid, consult a doctor or a midwife to guide you through the next steps.
After your water breaks, it is eminent to abstain from sexual intercourse, use of tampons, or any contact with the vaginal opening that may allow bacteria to reach your uterus. Since the amniotic sac protecting your child is no longer intact, bacteria can easily reach them and cause infections. These infections can lead to many birth injuries, such as multiple types of cerebral palsy or other mental and physical congenital disabilities that can jeopardize your child’s health and well-being. Taking such a risk is unfair to you and your little one, so be extra vigilant about protecting them.
Your Baby’s Head Drops
As a mother-to-be, when you finally experience ease in breathing after many months of shortness of breath, take this as a sign that your little one is ready to come out. This process is known as “Lightening,” whereby your baby’s head drops down, settling deeper into your pelvis and relieving pressure on your diaphragm. This release of pressure from the diaphragm helps you breathe. However, your bladder may not take the pressure diverted towards your pelvic area well, which causes you to urinate more frequently. Lightening can also lead to changes in appearance, especially in the lower body for women who experience carrying higher.
You Have Strong and Regular Contractions
Inarguably, contractions are the most common sign of going into labor, experienced by all birth givers in a greater or lesser capacity. These tightening and relaxing motions of the womb allow you to push your baby out. Contractions begin at the later stages of the pregnancy. The initial contractions are categorized as Braxton Hicks contractions, usually painless and sporadic, occurring every 20 to 30 minutes. Slowly, these turn into longer, more frequent, and more painful contractions that indicate the start of the labor process. During labor, contractions can peak for an hour, be incredibly painful to the point where you cannot speak or move, and occur every 5 to 10 minutes. Placing your hand on your abdomen during a contraction will make it feel tighter, and once the muscles relax, the tightness and pain shall go away. A good way to know when you have reached labor is to time your contractions. Once your contractions start lasting an hour and happen every 5 to 10 minutes in a sharp period cramp-like pain manner, immediately reach out to your doctor or midwife, who will assist you with the next steps.
You Experience Thinning and Opening of Your Cervix
The approaching of labor brings about thinning and relaxing of the cervix, which indicates that the lower portion of the cervix is being prepared for delivery. This process is known as “Effacement” and is measured in percentages by doctors or healthcare practitioners. It would help if you reached 100% effacement to be officially in labor. The Braxton Hicks contractions experienced before reaching labor often play a role in effacement, as they cause the cervix to stretch. Slowly, the thinning and relaxing of the cervix leads to “Dilation.” It is the process whereby the cervix opens up for delivery and can be accurately measured in centimeters or generally measured in finger lengths in an internal pelvic exam. Upon reaching 10 centimeters in length, your cervix is fully dilated and ready for childbirth. Just like effacement, you must consult a healthcare professional to determine how much the cervix has dilated.
You Have a “Bloody Show”
Upon commencement of the effacement process, whereby your cervix starts thinning and relaxing, a thick plug of bloody mucus is excreted out of the cervix in what is known as a “Bloody Show.” The original role of this mucous plug is to protect your child from bacteria reaching it, similar to the amniotic pouch. The plug is often not solid or shape-holding; instead, it’s a mucous discharge with brownish, reddish, or pinkish tones indicating traces of blood. If these blood traces appear as full-fledged bleeding instead, this may indicate something is wrong, and you should consult a healthcare professional immediately.
The appearance of the bloody show can be identified minutes, hours, or days before labor, but in some cases may not be identified.
You Have Localized Backache
The pain experienced in your lower back area may get harder to bear as you go into labor. This pain can often render you unable to walk or move, making it harder to leave the house or participate in work. Furthermore, the cramps may turn into constant localized aches that do not leave even after stretching or laying down in certain positions to ease them. If experiencing this symptom of labor, ask someone to give you lower back massages to increase blood flow and relax muscles. Moreover, consult your doctor, who may prescribe you the relevant dosage of paracetamol and recommend bed rest.
You Feel a Burst of Energy
That is not true if you wonder whether all labor symptoms are painful or scary. Finally, a positive and much-needed change you will experience upon reaching labor is the “Nesting” phase. That’s the feeling whereby a burst of energy takes over you after being exhausted and tired throughout your pregnancy. Waking up with this burst of energy and wanting to move around, partake in activities, and be productive indicates that your little one wants you to get up and prepare for them. So use this energy as a motivation to take care of your final duties and responsibilities before your mini-me is out of your tummy and in your lap!
Pregnancy is a bittersweet tale marking the beginning of motherhood. This tale has many ups and downs, but a beautiful ending that takes the form of your little one. This ending occurs through a process known as labor, which can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for first-time birth givers. Knowing the signs which indicate labor can be of immense help when it comes to being physically and mentally prepared to give birth. So, whether you’re a first-time mother or have embarked on this journey, keep the abovementioned signs in mind to make it a peaceful process for you and your little one.