Signs and Symptoms of Labour

The process of bringing a child into the world is no less than a miracle. We’re sure you’ve been anticipating the arrival of your tiny tot for months now. Now that the baby is weeks away from being delivered, it’s best to listen to your body and keep all senses tuned to the signs of labour so that both mom and baby are safe and healthy.

Labour prepares the mom’s body for the process of childbirth. For first time parents, this may feel a little daunting however, we are here to be your guide and walk you through the process. Here’s an exhaustive list of the various signs of labour, so you know when and how to be ready to enter the delivery stage to welcome your little one into this world. Read on:

When will my labour begin?

Your due date is usually calculated at 40 weeks from when you conceive. When your pregnancy is full-term, very rarely will your baby arrive exactly on your due date. It could be off by as much as two days or even two weeks. But this is nothing to worry about, rest assured this is as common as craving for sour things in an early trimester. It’s mostly common for women to go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks. To make sure you are fully ready and prepped to go, work on a birth plan with your doctor and partner, and keep a hospital bag ready. If you are past your due date, it is natural to feel a wee-bit anxious, but don’t be. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on preparing for your child to arrive. Avoid trying to induce labour using home remedies. Instead, speak to your doctor or midwife.

Am I close to my labour?

“Are these contractions or cramps? Has my water broken...” are common doubts you might have. Getting contractions and experiencing your water breaking, are both sure signs of labour. But more often than not, the signs that labour is coming soon are easy to miss out. Your body will always send you signals, which help you recognise these signs of labour. It is also highly unlikely that you will go into labour without any warning. According to research, only a small minority of people, as few as 8% reported of their water breaking before they started having regular contractions. Signs may differ from individual to individual, but here are a few indications that will help you know if you’re going into labour anytime soon: Fluctuating energy: It is common for women to feel tired or, inversely, get a sudden rush of energy a few days before going into labour. While this is a common sign throughout the duration of a pregnancy, it amplifies before labour. A shift in your energy levels closer to your due date can be one of the signs that labour is coming soon. Try to preserve your energy and take as much rest as possible through this period. Diarrhoea: The muscles of a female body relax before going into labour in preparation for childbirth. This leads to relaxation of the rectum as well. It may be an annoying symptom but is surely a good one. Ensure that you are well hydrated and keeping an eye for other early signs of labour. Change in the colour of your vaginal discharge: In the days leading upto the date of delivery, you might notice a thick, pinkish discharge called a ‘bloody show’. This is a good indication that your labour is fast approaching. Loss of the mucus plug: The mucus plug can be described as a cork that seals your uterus. Loss of the mucus plug is a sign that labour is coming soon. It may come out in one piece or in several little pieces. You may not even realise the loss of your mucus plug and many women do not lose it before their delivery. The baby ‘dropping’: Your baby starts to descend into your pelvis around two to four weeks before labour. This act is known as ‘Lightening’. You will start waddling around a bit more and also be able to breathe more easily. In the case of women who are giving birth to their second child, ‘Lightening’ doesn’t happen until you’re truly in labour.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Through your pregnancy, you may have felt mild contractions, mostly in the third trimester. Braxton hicks contractions are mostly painless and described as mild menstrual cramps. These contractions are a way for your body to prepare for labour. Braxton Hicks contractions are not like labour contractions, they are not painful, just uncomfortable. They do not translate into dilation of the cervix or birth of a baby.

Early signs of labour

The process of labour can be divided into three stages. The first stage is when the cervix dilates to 10 cms. This is the stage of your labour that lasts the longest. The second stage of labour is the delivery of the baby. This is the stage where the mother actively pushes the baby. The third stage and final stage of labour is the passage of placenta. This may happen right away, or take up to 30 minutes. Early signs of labour are sometimes completely missed out by most moms. The signs during this period are very subjective. While in early labour, your cervix will start to dilate. You may also feel light, irregular contractions. These contractions will be more than 20 mins apart and feel like cramps. Your cervix will dilate slowly at first and progress faster as you approach active labour. Your contractions will also occur more regularly and intensify. Staying calm and focused while in labour is important. Make sure you have your partner or friend with you to help you record labour symptoms, to keep you company, and get you to the hospital when the time comes.

Is it normal to feel discomfort?

The feeling of discomfort during labour is completely normal. Your body is going through several changes all at once. Engaging in activities like going for a short walk, meditating, practising breathing exercises, taking a shower or a bath can help relieve some pain and discomfort.

Should I call the doctor?

If you notice any of these early signs of labour, you don’t need to go to the hospital yet. However, you may need to call your doctor or midwife in case of bright red bleeding or if your water breaks. If you amniotic fluid smells funky or is brown or green in colour, it is essential to call your medical practitioner. Calling your doctor is important if you have a headache, sudden swelling, blurred vision or feel your baby is less active. If you feel unsure about anything at any stage, do not refrain to call your doctor or midwife for guidance.

How do I know I am in active labour?

Active labour is when more signs of labour will show and things will start happening quickly. Your cervix will be dilating from 6cms to 10cms. Breaking of your water: One of the first signs that you have entered active labour is breaking of your amniotic sac. Amniotic sac consists of amniotic fluid that protects your baby while in your uterus. This is more commonly referred to as your water breaking. When you water breaks, you either feel a heavy or a light flow of fluid. Most women go into labour within 24 hours of their water breaking. Breaking of your water is a good sign to head to the hospital as you are getting closer to childbirth. Contractions: If you have entered active labour, your contractions will occur at shorter intervals. They will also be much stronger as compared to before. Every contraction will last for about 30 to 70 seconds. It is important to keep a tab on the progress of your contractions. Other signs of active labour include back pains and nausea. A woman can be inactive labour for anywhere between 4 to 8 hours. Close contractions, breaking of the water and dilation of the cervix over 6 cms is the right time to head to your nursing facility.

Difference between real and false labour

The signs of labour can be very confusing as they differ from person to person. Also, it is really easy to panic and rush to the hospital to find out it is just a false alarm. Here are a few ways how you can differentiate between real and false signs of labour:

- In the case of true labour, your contractions occur after regular intervals. For eg: After every 6 minutes. In false labour, the time between your contractions isn’t consistent. For eg: They may occur at time differences of 4 minutes, 6 minutes, 10 minutes and 2 minutes. - In the case of real labour, contractions get more painful as there is a progression in the level of pain. This doesn’t happen in false labour. - Contractions when felt in the front are a sign of false labour. Contractions in real labour start from the lower back and then radiate pain to the front, low in the groin. - Contractions during real labour do not stop with a change in positions. - If you are facing real labour, your cervix will dilate, thin and soften. In the case of false contractions, there will be no change to the cervix.

You can go into labour at any time around your due date. The baby can arrive early or late, all you can do is be prepared. Instead of stressing over the finer details, it is better to relax and await the final moments of solace. Look out for these signs and await the arrival of your little one.

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