woman in labor

Signs of Impending Labor

Despite the increased accuracy of due dates, as few as five percent of babies arrive when they’re expected. In actuality, a “normal” arrival is about a five-week period around the due date. This means knowing what to expect when you’re within about two weeks of your due date -- earlier, even, if you are at risk of preterm labor. Not all “signs of labor” mean Baby could arrive within the day, and some might or might not be. Every woman’s body is different -- just as the same woman can experience pregnancy and birth in very different ways. Here’s a look at 10 signs you might be ready for labor from least to most likely.

Braxton Hicks contractions start up.

Braxton Hicks aren’t necessarily a sign of labor, but they do start becoming obvious as early as four months (even before, for experienced moms). All the same, these false contractions are your body’s way of practicing for the real deal, and can sometimes be mistaken for actual contractions.

Extra bursts of energy crop up.

Many women notice a sudden increase of energy in the weeks before they go into labor. You need to nest; make sure the nursery is perfectly arranged, the house cleaned, and your sock drawer organized. Remember you’re still very pregnant, and it is important to give yourself a break when you notice your body growing weary.

The spot where baby normally sits drops.

As your baby prepares to make her entrance through the birth canal, she will literally drop a little lower into your abdomen, getting into place. For many women, this manifests as a sudden, wonderful ability to take a deep breath for the first time in months. This may be weeks in advance or right before you notice serious contractions.

You experience low back discomfort.

With Baby moving around and getting into place and all those new muscles getting ready to go into overdrive, you may notice some serious lower back pain or cramping. Some nearly-mommies even feel this pressure into the rectum.

The mucus plug comes out.

The mucus plug is a barrier of mucus that forms in the vaginal canal to keep pathogens away from the baby.  Often called “the bloody show,” the mucus plug generally comes out near the end of the pregnancy -- but again, it is not a definite indicator of labor. Activities like sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam can knock it loose (and that’s okay). The mucus plug may come out all at once or in bits and pieces; some blood may be present, which is usually not a concern, although it doesn’t hurt to mention it to your obstetrician or midwife.

Vaginal discharge increases.

Many women notice a change in the consistency or constancy of their vaginal discharge during pregnancy. As labor draws near, it may become much more obvious as the hormones in the body, and the reproductive organs prepare for labor.

The cervix thins.

Cervical effacement, or the thinning of the cervix, takes place over the last four weeks or so. As your cervix becomes thinner, it makes it easier to dilate -- which is a good thing, because how else will you be able to get that baby out?!

Dilation begins.

Dilation will begin slowly, and your health care provider will likely begin measuring how dilated your cervix is in the final weeks of regular prenatal exams. Full dilation (ten centimeters) doesn’t usually occur until it’s really time, but you may begin dilating slowly a few weeks in advance.

Contractions begin.

Contractions can begin a few days before it’s really time to get ready for labor, but when those contractions become regular, intense, and close together, it’s probably time to give your doctor a call.

Your water breaks.

Not every woman’s water breaks, but when it does most doctors recommend heading straight to the hospital. It is possible for some women to leak a little bit of urine from all the pressure to the bladder, but the release of amniotic fluid experts refer to as “water breaking” or “membrane rupture” is odorless and clear. You might still be hours away, but it’s time to grab your bag and get moving!

(Image via Pexels.)