Signs of Labor
As a pregnant woman nears her delivery date, she may start to ask more mothers what their experiences were with signs of labor. What is probably most surprising to the expectant mother is the wide variety of the first signs of labor that each woman goes through! The labor process for every woman is different and can even vary between different pregnancies but there are some telltale signals to pay attention to.
One thing that is good to know is that a lot of women get to experience some “practice” contractions which can start as early as their second trimester. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions and they are a way for your body to start preparing for what is going to happen in a few months. Braxton Hicks contractions can also start in the third trimester and some women do not experience them at all. They are described as a tightening of the abdomen but unlike normal labor contractions, they are not regular nor do they grow progressively stronger. Sometimes these can be felt more in the back area and if you change positions or get up and walk around, they will go away. As you get closer to your due date, there are some other labor signs that are a bit more significant. One of these is losing what is called the mucus plug. The mucus plug has been in place at the opening of the cervix during the duration of the pregnancy. It works to provide a protective barrier to keep bacteria from entering the cervix and causing any infections. When the cervix begins to thin out in preparation for delivery, the mucus plug will release. It can look pink or clear and also have traces of blood in it. If you notice any foul odor or green color, call your medical provider. Your doctor will just want to ensure you do not have any infection. This is the same for when your water breaks.
The amniotic sac which surrounds and protects the baby usually breaks before your delivery. For some women, it does not break on its own and your nurse or doctor will break it in the hospital. If it does break at home, do not expect it to be the rushing gush of water that is portrayed in movies and television. Instead, it is usually a slow trickle of fluid. About one out of every ten women say they experience the large release of water and it tends to happen in bed. Again, check to make sure the fluid is clear. If there is anything unusual, tell your doctor right away.
The number one sign of labor is regular contractions. Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions, these contractions will become longer, stronger and occur more often at regular intervals. They also will not go away when you try to change positions. It is best to start to time your contractions when you feel they are progressing. Keep your doctor informed but the usual recommendation is to get to the hospital or contact your midwife when they are happening every five minutes. Another thing to look for is your natural tendency to “nest” when the baby is coming. One day you might just wake up and want to clean the entire house, rearrange baby’s nursery one more time or wash the bottles again. This might be a primal signal to prepare because baby is on the way! Continue to ask other mother’s what their experiences were. The more information you have, the more prepared you will feel when your delivery begins. Pay attention to labor signs and do not feel embarrassed or silly to contact your doctor with questions if you are not sure.
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