The causes that trigger labor aren`t really known, although it seems that hormonal changes play an essential role. Most women are aware when they are in labor, but sometimes it may prove difficult to appreciate when it starts.
So, how do I know if I`m in labor? Let`s go over the most important signs.
Table of Contents
Relief Sensation: You Can Breathe Well Again!
It`s a sign that the fetus has dropped into the pelvis, which will remove the pressure on the diaphragm, and your breathing will become easier. At some women, this drop will occur much sooner, even from the beginning of the last month of pregnancy, but usually this phenomenon appears with 1 or 2 weeks before the big day.
Another sign that confirms the drop of the baby is that now you`ll feel an increased pressure on the bladder, and this will make you visit the toilet more often. Certain persons may notice a change in your abdomen, although you may not be able to notice it.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
This type of contractions is felt as a strong uterine strain in its upper part and then a gradual relaxation. Some women may experience real cramps, similar to those during period.
While labor approaches, these contractions may become relatively painful and may occur once every 20 minutes, making you think you entered into labor. In any way, if they don`t become stronger, more painful and don`t cause the dilation of the cervix, they form what it`s known as false labor.
The membranes of the amniotic bag where the baby is located can break before labor starts. To be ready for this, keep an absorbent near you at all times when you go outside or put a plastic on your mattress. In 1 out of 10 women, this rupture occurs for sure, the amount of amniotic liquid being consistent, usually producing it at home in bed. Other times it`s necessary to be made the difference between the liquid leaked and urine, the gelatinous plug more abundant and fluid, or even a vaginal discharge that is more abundant.
If the amniotic bag isn`t intact, time becomes essential. The longer you wait until labor will start, the higher the risk of infection for the child. Your obstetrician may stimulate uterine contractions. In the meantime, don`t use intravaginal tampons and don`t do anything which may increase the risk of introducing bacteria into your vagina, including a sexual contact. Let your doctor know immediately if the liquid isn`t clear and without odor, especially if it smells bad and is green, because this may be a symptom of infection.
The discharges with a gelatinous texture, with mucus and pinkish, brownish or red shades on your underwear are a sign of labor. You may notice this mucus when you go to the toilet and use toilet paper to clean yourself or on your underwear. This is the sign that your cervix expands, gets thinner or advances to prepare for birth.
These discharges don`t have a certain periodicity. They may appear with hours or weeks before labor, that`s why it`s best to visit the doctor to receive a confirmation if we are talking about labor here or not.
Loss of Gelatinous Plug
The elimination of the gelatinous plug from the cervix may occur a few minutes, hours or days before labor or in early labor. This plug “sealed” the cervical canal and protected the fetus from bacteria until now. You may also lose a small amount of blood along with the elimination of this plug. This bleeding may be due to the breakage of some small blood vessels from the cervix which start to dilate. Still, if the amount of blood is bigger, this may be a sign that something is wrong and you should visit your doctor immediately.
Deletion of the Cervix
Usually, in the last month, the cervix starts to stretch and become thinner, preparing for birth. The Braxton Hicks contractions that you feel now have probably a role into in this particular process. If you won`t feel anything in this preparation for birth, your obstetrician will check during your vaginal examination any signs that may show that any chances in your cervix occur.
A thinner cervix will dilate more easily. Your doctor will check the deletion of the cervix in the last 2 months of pregnancy. This deletion will be measured in percentages: “the cervix is deleted 25%, 50% or 75%.” Zero percent means that the cervix is around 3 – 4 centimeters in length and is very thin. Before birth, the cervix needs to be 100% deleted or completely thin.
Explosion of Energy
For the most part of your pregnancy you wanted to rest, so you`ll be aware for sure when this explosion of energy occurs. One day, you`ll wake up full of energy! You`ll probably begin to make an entire list of things that you now are able to do. Cleaning, shopping, other stuff and then resume everything you have been postponing by now. In everything you want to do, don`t forget that the next day you may enter into labor, so keep some of this energy.
Dilation of the Cervix
It`s the cervical opening process to prepare for birth. The dilation is measured in centimeters, more precisely in “fingers” during pelvic examination. At the beginning, the cervical changes produce more slowly, because in the active phase of labor, the cervix starts to dilate even more rapidly. The complete dilation means that the cervix has 10 cm and is ready to allow the baby to pass.
During the last months of pregnancy, you sometimes had sometimes painful contractions – a sensation that your uterus strengthens and then relaxes. These were Braxton Hicks contractions that prepared your body for real labor/
To be able to make the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real ones, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are these real contractions? Count the seconds between your contractions. Follow a regular pattern of contractions which progressively become more frequent and stronger. False contractions remain irregular.
- How much they last? Measure how each contraction much lasts! Real contractions last between 30 – 90 seconds.
- Did they stop? Real contractions continue no matter in what position you are sitting or how active you are. In false labor, the contractions may stop when you change your position, walk or rest.
Regular contractions represent an important sign that labor started. It`s the moment when is recommended to note the exact when the contraction starts and how much time it lasts. You may feel these contractions as a pain similar to those from menstruation or as a cramp in your back. During the first stage of your labor, the contractions may have an interval of 12 to 15 minutes. In a few hours, the contractions may appear in smaller and smaller intervals of time. When they appear in less than 5 minutes and last around 40 seconds, it`s time to go to the hospital.
Your contractions should have some of these characteristics:
- They are regular.
- They follow a predictable pattern (e.g. every 9 minutes).
- They become more and more frequent.
- They last longer and longer.
- They become stronger and stronger.
- Changing the body`s position or activity doesn`t relive the pain or determine the contractions to stop.
- The membranes may break.
- Each contraction is initially felt in the back, then to move to the front and vice-versa.
- The doctor finds that your cervix is wiped out or dilated. – Read this!
- Your contractions may be accompanied by the occurrence of a bloody mucus plug.
When to Contact the Doctor?
Generally speaking, throughout the entire pregnancy, the pregnant woman needs to follow a certain schedule of visits to the doctor to check out the evolution of pregnancy.
It`s best to get in touch with your doctor immediately after feeling any of the above signs, even if you aren`t sure. In this situation, the doctor will ask you how close are your contractions between them, if you can talk during a contraction and what other signs are you experiencing.
If your pregnancy was one without complications, it`s pretty likely that your doctor will ask you to come to the hospital to evaluate your signs and see what`s your situation. In other words, if you have any of these symptoms, it`s essential to contact your doctor:
- Your water broke or you think you are losing amniotic liquid. – More info!
- Your baby moves less than usual.
- You experience vaginal bleeding.
- You have fever, headache, abdominal pains or sight issues.