Signs Of Labor Approaching – Lights, Camera, Action!
Most women think that the onset of labor will be dramatic, like it is on television. But it’s unlikely that you’ll wake your partner in the middle of the night and say, “Honey, it’s time!” or feel your water break in the grocery store. Real labor usually begins much more slowly than that, so here are some clues that your body’s getting ready for the big day.
“Around 37 weeks, you might have increased vaginal discharge, either mucousy or tinged with blood,” says Susanne Schmunk, CNM, with Women’s OB-GYN in Saginaw, Michigan. This is also known as the “bloody show”.
Loss of the Mucous Plug
The mucous plug seals the opening to the cervix and is shed as the cervix begins to efface and dilate. “In most women, labor begins within 24 hours after the loss of the plug,” says Schmunk, “but labor can still be as much as two weeks away for some moms.” Anecdotal experience suggests that it is more likely for second-time or later moms to have a longer interval between loss of the mucous plug and onset of active labor. The plug is pretty unmistakable when you see it. It’s a little gross looking, but it’s a good sign that you’ll be meeting your baby soon!
Lower Back Pain
Oh, your aching back! While your back is probably pretty sore during much of late pregnancy because of carrying around the baby’s weight, the type of lower back pain during early labor is different. Rather than an overexertion type of soreness, the lower back discomfort in early labor feels more like what you might experience during your period.
Your pelvis may feel heavy and achy, similar again to menstrual cramps. If your baby has “dropped”, or engaged in the pelvis, you will likely feel a lot of pressure in your upper thighs and almost feel like you have a bowling ball between your legs. Walking will be quite uncomfortable.
Increased Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Your uterus has been painlessly contracting at irregular intervals throughout the later part of your pregnancy. Braxton-Hicks feel the same as labor contractions, but are less intense than the real thing. As labor approaches, Braxton-Hicks contractions will happen more frequently and some will be uncomfortable enough that you have to stop and wait for them to pass.
You might feel generally unwell, with malaise and an overwhelming need for sleep. “Some women feel like they’re coming down with the flu, so they go to bed to get a little extra rest. Quite often, when they wake up, they’re in labor,” says Schmunk.
There are other unofficial signs of impending labor which many moms experience, though they’re more like old wives’ tales than medical advice. These include having a sudden urge to clean the house; losing a couple pounds; and catching a cold. Many moms report coming down with a cold in the days immediately preceding labor.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms prior to 37 weeks’ pregnancy, call your physician right away. And while none of these are a guarantee, if you’re experiencing some or most of these symptoms, it’s a good indication that labor will soon begin. Get your rest, stick close to home, and enjoy the last few quiet hours or days before your family welcomes its newest addition!
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