If you are new to pregnancy, you might be wondering what it feels like to experience signs of labour. New mothers would have lots of questions:
- What do people usually feel during labour?
- How long would it take to experience labour?
- Is it painful?
- How to discern between real and false labour?
Every woman had different experiences during their own pregnancy. However, by detailing some signs to look out for or understanding the labour itself, it can provide some clues and serenity to mothers.
First of, what is labour. To put it simply, labour is a childbirth process which starts with contraction of the uterus and ends with delivery of a baby.
For someone who is inexperienced to pregnancy, determining the onset of labour can be tricky. Here how it goes.
Pre-labour: Varying times before labour
1. Something “drops”. Is it my baby?
As your due date is approaching, your baby will descend deep into your pelvis, waiting to be pushed out of the soon-to-be narrowed space.
The good news is you will breath much easier as your baby moves away from your lungs. However, their heads now are directly on top of your bladder which means, you are going to have your routine visit to the bathroom much more frequent.
The timing for this phenomenon to occur would generally differ between women. For a first timer, your baby can start to drop a few weeks before labour starts but for subsequent pregnancy, this can happen during labour.
What’s important is your baby position should ideally be head down and buttocks up. Regardless, if it isn’t your doctor would discuss with you regarding the alternatives.
2. Cervix starts to dilate, one of the earliest signs of labour
Women who experience this prior to delivery. Your cervix would start to open (dilate) and thin out (efface) in preparation for you baby. The rate at which it occurs differs between pregnant women.
Regardless you would be monitored at your weekly checkup and during the internal exam, both of these parameters would be the subject of interest.
If you have a relatively slow rate of effacement and dilatation, please don’t be discouraged. Try to remember that every single one of you is unique. As long as you are progressing, then it is a sign of good progress.
3. Other signs of labour include cramping and lower back pain
If you are new to the experience, you will rarely feel this. Don’t take my word as a point of exclusivity.
People who are pregnant for 2nd and subsequent pregnancy would have a much higher tendency to experience cramping and lower back pain.
It’s normal as your muscles and joints are stretching, preparing yourself for the upcoming delivery.
4. Gastrointestinal symptoms can be unnerving
The relaxing effect provided by certain hormones during delivery doesn’t act upon a specific muscle. It works in a general sense which can lead to other muscles in the body to experience relaxation.
Some of those muscles which can lead to an onset of gastrointestinal symptoms, specifically diarrhoea is located in the rectum. Relaxation of these groups of muscles can lead to pesky labour symptoms that can be unnerving to new mothers.
That’s why you need to drink a lot of fluid to stay hydrated. It’s normal and can be considered as a good sign. Your delivery is progressing well.
5. There is a reason why you felt a little bit clumsy
Loosening joints prior to delivery is one of the most important signs of labour. Your pelvis needs to be flexible to provide a safe passageway for your cutie pie to make their way into the world.
However, just like the previous point, it doesn’t act specifically upon joints which are only located in the pelvis. Others can be affected too. This is why some mothers might feel like they are losing control of their own grip.
Let me put you at ease and say this is normal. It’s a part of your delivery process and a good sign of progress.
6. You will hit a plateau on your weighing scale. Sometimes, it might even go down a bit.
Gaining weight is a part and parcel of pregnancy. You were carrying another person, so logic dictates that you will gain extra weight up to a certain extent. At the very end of your pregnancy, your weight can level off or you can lose some.
Various factors govern this clinical outcome however, you baby’s weight would remain the same. Your weight is dropping due to your declining level of amniotic fluid or an increase in activities.
You practically carry a few kg of extra weight here and there. Without eating much, you are bound to lose some weight.
7. Napping or nesting, whichever you were
It can be a bit all over the place when you get so little sleep at night due to waking up all the time to pee. The best solution to this misery is to take a short nap during the late afternoon. However, do all mothers feel this?
The answer is simply no. While some might feel super sleepy, some moms get a burst of energy which gives them the urge to clean and reorganise anything they can get their eyes on. It’s called nesting.
Whichever you are it’s fine. However, don’t over do it.
Signs of labour the days and hours before labor starts (Early labour)
8. So many things are happening at the same time. First of all, your mucous plug and vaginal discharge
While some women don’t lose it before delivery, mucous plug, which can be thought as cork that seals off the uterus from the outside world, can be lost.
It comes out in a relatively different amount but it’s sort of like the mucus which came out of your nose after you sneeze.
Vaginal discharge is one of the signs of labour that indicates your labour is imminent. It can be pinkish which is often described as a bloody show but afraid not, it’s normal.
Upon labour, your vaginal discharge can seem thicken. Whether labour is near or not would depend on the other factor such as dilatation and presence of contractions.
9. Contractions, opening show before the main event
This can be considered as early signs of labour. Please note that the contraction that I’m describing is the true contraction. Alternatively, you can feel practice contractions (false contractions) for months and still no real progress towards delivery.
Your muscles in the uterus start to tighten and start to push your baby down bit by bit. So how do you discern between true and false contractions?
These are some of the clues:
- False contractions (Braxton Hicks contractions) ease up as they go along. True contractions only get stronger each time.
- True contractions remain until the delivery process is completed. False contractions often go away.
- If you consider pattern, true contraction falls into a regular pattern, building intensity over time as the labour progresses. As the time goes by, true contraction would only be getting stronger. False contractions come and go without the need to scale up their intensity.
- Location can’t really be a reliable indicator to differentiate between true and false contraction. However, true contraction can be felt on the lower abdomen which radiates down the leg.
10. Water breaks. The finale to all early signs of labour
One of the most popular early labour signs that most people know of. However, the thing that you should know is, this is the finale of all signs of labour. It’s not going to turn up so soon and others can be a much reliable indicator of approaching labour.
This is the “it’s time!” moment and you need to be monitored more frequently now to avoid unwanted complications related to delivery.
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