Symptoms And Signs Of Labor
Signs and symptoms of labor can begin immediately before the birth actually starts, or up to one month before the onset of labor. Every woman has a different experience before her labor; some women have all the signs, and some women do not notice any labor symptoms until they realize they are in full labor.
While you may not experience all the common symptoms and signs of labor, being prepared and knowing some of these signs beforehand will help you to recognize any changes that are occurring in your body and why. Always contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your labor symptoms, and to keep your doctor up to date with your progress.
Early Signs Of Labor
Your body will begin preparing for labor up to a month before the actual labor occurs. Again, some women experience these signs weeks before labor, and some women do not experience them until right before the labor. Try to keep a diary of any signs that you are experiencing: what day they started and how long the symptoms lasted. Keeping track of these symptoms will help you if you need to talk to your doctor about any concerns, and will be a record you can look back on if you plan on having another baby in the future.‘Lightening’ is considered to be one of the earliest signs of labor. This happens when the baby begins to prepare for birth by settling deeper into your pelvis area. As the baby moves further down into your body, the stress and pressure that the baby’s weight was placing on the ribs is released. Women experience of feeling of ‘lightening’ in that area and can often breathe easier and move around better.
The baby’s new position does put added pressure on the bladder, and women often notice an increased need to urinate after the baby has moved. Some women experience lightening up to a month before labor, some do not notice it until a few days before labor, and some women do not experience it at all.
In preparation of birth your cervix will begin to undergo changes several weeks before labor occurs. Many of these cervical changes are referred to as effacement. During this process, the cervix becomes thinner and softer. Women do not feel effacement, but your doctor will be able to see the change. Effacement progresses slowly up towards the moment up labor; for example, a doctor may report a few weeks before labor that you are 25% effaced, and then a week or so before labor begins your cervix may be 75% effaced.
Nesting is a symptom of oncoming labor that some women experience weeks to days before they have their baby. Nesting is an enormous spurt of energy, the insatiable desire to organize and clean the house, or to suddenly tackle a big project like designing a different nursery. This spurt of energy is especially noticeable as most women feel very tired and sluggish during their last trimester, and then suddenly they cannot seem to sit still and feel like they can conquer the world.
Signs Of Impending Labor
The ‘bloody show’ is a sign that your labor may be soon, or another week or more away. This symptom is caused by the release of a mucus plug that developed in the cervix during the pregnancy. The release of the plus may occur slowly, and be seen as an increase in vaginal discharge or stringy like mucous, or it may occur all at once.
It is called the bloody show because usually a few spots of blood, or a red tinge to the discharge, is noticed. Anything more than a few spots of blood should be brought to the attention of a physician immediately.
Cervical dilation is another symptom of impending labor, though it can begin to occur weeks before the labor even begins. The dilation of the cervix is measured from 0-10. Usually the dilation occurs very slowly weeks before the labor begins and then increases quickly right before labor.
For example, a woman may be dilated up to 2-3 centimeters for weeks before the labor, and then experience a quick increase in dilation days before the labor starts. Some women notice the dilation and experience what is called Braxton Hicks; these are the little contractions that some women feel as the cervix begins to dilate. Sometimes these contractions are confused with actual labor, and may be accompanied by a feeling not unlike menstrual cramps.
Signs Of Labor
Right before labor many women begin to experience severe back aches and pains. This back pain is actually caused by contractions, but some women feel the pain in their back instead of their pelvis. Loose stools are another sign that labor is quickly approaching; this is the body’s way of cleaning out the system and creating room for the oncoming baby.
Some women do not experience loose stools, but instead constantly feel like they need to go the bathroom.
When a woman’s water breaks, it is a definite sign that labor should soon be on its way. At this time, the amniotic sac that was full of fluids which surrounded your baby breaks.
Some women experience this symptom days before labor actually begins, or hours before. While the labor may still be a few days away, a woman should always contact her doctor once her water breaks. Contrary to popular scenes on T.V., some women do not experience a big gush and their water does not break all at once; sometimes it slowly begins to leak or trickle a few days or hours before labor begins.
Contractions are one of the more obvious symptoms of oncoming labor; however, some women confuse their Braxton Hicks contractions with real labor contractions. In order to determine if your contractions are signaling the onset of actual labor, you will need to figure out if you can stop the contractions, where you are feeling the contractions, and how long the contractions last.
Real labor contractions cannot be stopped; sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions can be stopped if a woman lies down or changes what she is doing; Braxton Hicks can sometimes be relieved by walking, whereas real contractions tend to increase with activity.
Real labor contractions are often felt throughout the back and high up in the abdomen to lower abdomen; false contractions are usually only felt in the lower portion of the abdomen. Contractions that signal the onset of labor can generally be timed; they usually last more than 30 seconds and then increase in strength and duration. False contractions do not have a specific pattern and can be very irregular.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms