Now that you’re pretty much set for the big day, with probably just a little bit of last minute preparations needed here and there, comes the waiting game.
If you have been noticing that your due date comes and goes with no signs of labour starting, don’t be distressed. Due dates are only an estimate of when your baby will be 40 weeks. It does not necessarily tell you when your baby will arrive. It’s perfectly normal to give birth before or after your due date.
But with the anticipation to finally meet your mini-me growing even bigger, how can you tell that you are already in labour? Here are some of the foremost signs:
“Lightening” is the term being used to identify the stage in your pregnancy where baby drops lower in your belly. For first-time moms, lightening can occur a few weeks before your baby’s birth while for other moms, it may happen only a few hours before labour starts. How do you know that you’re in this stage already? You may feel that the baby is now settling deep into your pelvis and you may now find a space between your breasts and abdomen, that didn’t used to be there.
- Your cervix ripens (Effacement)
Effacement is the term wherein your cervix begins to soften in preparation for labour. This phase usually starts during the last month of your pregnancy and around the time that the big day has arrived, your cervix will have stretched from around 1 inch in width to paper thinness.
- Your cervix opens (Dilation)
As your baby’s birthday approaches, your cervix begins to dilate, or open up. Dilation is checked during a pelvic exam and measured in centimetres (cm), from 0 cm (no dilation) to 10 cm (fully dilated). Typically, if you’re 4 cm dilated, you’re in the active stage of labor; if you’re fully dilated, you’re ready to start pushing.
- Your mucus plug dislodges
Another sign of an oncoming labour occurs when a plug of thick mucus (that seals off your cervix and prevents bacteria from entering the uterus during pregnancy) is dislodged. The mucus will look like a thick or stringy discharge that you may pass in a clump into the toilet or your underwear. It can be pink, brown, or slightly bloody in colour. The bloody show usually debuts either a few days before your labour starts or at the very beginning of labour, but pregnant women can still go into labour without this.
- Your water bag breaks
The water breaking is synonymous to the so-called “rupturing of the membranes” and can happen during the first stage of labour. When this happens, the sac of amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects your baby during pregnancy breaks. If it hasn’t happened yet and you’re already in labour, your doctor will do it for you before you become completely dilated. Expect for your contractions to become more intense as your water bag breaks!
A contraction during labour is a pattern of tightening and relaxation of the uterus. Contractions happen to open up your cervix and help push the baby right into the birth canal.
How can you tell if it’s a contraction? If it’s rhythmic and strong that feels like menstrual cramps or a bad backache, it most likely is one! To be sure, you’ll know that it’s a real one when the pattern becomes more consistent and will feel stronger and are occurring closer together.
While the abovementioned signs are the most common ones experienced by pregnant women, bear in mind that early labours that have already started have the tendency to still cease. It’s also possible that you would not even realize that you’re already in labour at all!
Make sure that you are well coordinated with your doctor regarding a strategy should you suspect that you’re already in labour.
Baby Centre. (May 2017). How long will my labour last? Retrieved 5 October 2018 from: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x1037967/how-long-will-my-labour-last
Health Day. (20 January 2018). Labor: Six Signs You’ll Soon Be There. Retrieved 5 October 2018 from: https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/pregnancy-33/pregnancy-news-543/labor-six-signs-you-ll-soon-be-there-643327.html
Mayo Clinic. (06 July 2017). Fetal Development: The 3rd Trimester. Retrieved 5 October 2018 from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/fetal-development/art-20045997