10 Signs That Labor Is Near
By: Crystal Bassler
Throughout pregnancy, most expectant parents wonder, “How will I know when I am really in labor.” Gynecologists tell pregnant women to wait to go to the hospital until they are having contractions five minutes apart, but every pregnancy is different and not everyone will have the same signs that labor has begun. It differs greatly among many women. Some people may think that when they go to their appointment and hear that they have begun dilating and that they will be having the baby any day, but that isn’t always true. Sometimes women can be stuck between 1-4 cm dilated for weeks before labor begins.
Knowing whether or not we are in labor differs from the first pregnancy to the second because the second time around we know what it feels like and there is no mistaking it. Hollywood movies and tv shows like to make it look dramatic, waters breaking all over the floor before being rushed to the hospital, but no need to worry, that isn’t at all how it happens. Many times first time mothers go to the hospital thinking labor has begun when really, they just had some Braxton Hicks contractions. It can be tough to know when the real thing has begun, so what do those contractions really feel like? What is that jelly like substance we’re starting to see in the toilet, is that pee or did my water just break? Below we will discuss the top 10 ways to know when labor is near.
10. Water Breaks
We have all seen it in the movies, very pregnant women are in the middle of her work day, or out in a very public place and then just like that, out of nowhere, her water breaks all over the floor and she gets rushed to the hospital. This is almost never the case, most women’s waters don’t break until they already in the hospital, especially if it’s their first time giving birth.
If the water does break, odds are women will only feel a trickle of liquid run down their legs. Water breaking is a definite sign that labor is just around the corner, or has already started, whatever the case if a woman’s water has broken somewhere other than the hospital, they should always call their OBGYN immediately.
While backaches are very common in pregnancy, and not always a sign that a labor has begun, there is something called back labor. In some cases, the baby descends with its skull hitting the mom’s spine. During back labor, contractions are felt in the back in the form of extremely bad back aches.
There is extreme back pain with normal labor as well, however, it radiates through the stomach as well. If someone is experiencing back pain that is very intense, and not stopping or getting worse, they should always make a call to their OBGYN as odds are labor has begun and they should be seen by their doctor immediately.
8. Jelly Like Discharge
While pregnant the cervix stays closed with a mucus plug, when labor is close our bodies push out that plug, while some women don’t lose their mucus plug until they are in the hospital pushing, other women will notice this in the toilet at home. Losing the mucus plug can happen days before labor, so it is not a sure sign that one is in labor right at that moment, but it is a definite sign that labor is right around the corner.
It may be concerning the first time a woman sees this discharge but don’t fret, it is totally normal and baby is doing just fine. The discharge can come with a little bloody show, it could come out as one big blob all at once or little bits at a time. It is recommended that pregnant women make their doctor aware that they have seen this discharge.
Contractions are always a sure sign of labor, but how do we tell the difference between Braxton Hicks or the real deal? Braxton hicks contractions usually are not very strong, and usually go away with a little bit of time, however, real contractions become more intense, closer together, and will not go away, that is, until the baby is born.
Contractions can start out as some small cramping, but they usually become much more intense and begin to feel like a tight band wrapped around back and belly. Doctors may tell pregnant women to wait to come to the hospital until their contractions are so bad that they can not stand, walk, or talk, but they should always trust their instincts. If they think it is time to go… then go! There’s no harm in getting checked out.
During the last month of pregnancy, the baby should be head down and press on your bladder. During labor that pressure intensifies as baby drops lower and lower into the birth canal making it feel a little something like there is a bowling ball sitting on top of our cervixes. Some women describe this as feeling like the baby is about to drop out but don’t worry that won’t happen, it’s just very uncomfortable. That pressure gets its worst right before it is time to push.
Many women know that they need to push because of that pressure. Getting an epidural will help with the contractions, but once that pressure comes they do feel it and there’s no mistaking that it is time to push that baby out!
Some pregnant women noticed a significant increase in bowel movements the day that they went into labor, this is caused by the muscles loosening up for labor. While diarrhea may not be a sure sign that you are about to go into labor, it is a common and normal part of the process of going into labor.
It may not be the most fun part of labor, but stay hydrated and try not to eat too much (if that is possible being 9 months pregnant) and that should help calm diarrhea. As mentioned this is not a sure sign, but it is a good indication that things are about to start of course as always if a pregnant woman experiences diarrhea and are worried at any point she should always contact her doctor.
While this may not be a sign that women are definitely in labor, this is a sign that labor is very close. In a final couple of weeks before labor women will experience what is called lightening. This happens as the baby makes his or her way into the birthing canal allowing the expectant mother to breathe easier than before as there is now slightly more room for her lungs to expand.
For some women, this happens weeks before labor, for others it can happen just hours before giving birth! When this happens it may look like the woman’s belly has dropped and she may now begin experiencing that pressure we talked about earlier. This combined with the pelvic pressure is a sure sign that labor is either very near or has already started.
Obviously, to be in labor your cervix needs to dilate and this can take weeks. Usually, the OBGYN will check for this at the, now, weekly appointments. However, many women do not like to wait to see their doctors to know whether or not they have begun to dilate.
If we look up, “how to check if I am dilated at home,” we will find instructional videos on how to check our cervix ourselves. Of course, it can be difficult to tell doing it ourselves and some women can not reach that far back. Usually, active labor begins around 4 to 5 cm dilated, and that’s four to five finger widths able to fit inside the cervix.
Effacement is when the cervix stretches and thins out. It’s a sure sign that your body is getting ready for labor. Effacement and dilation go hand in hand, in order to dilate, women need to be effaced because a thinned out cervix dilates easier. When doctors check for dilation they are also checking to see how effaced women are.
Women will typically hear their doctors say something along the lines of, “Ok, 50 percent effaced and 1cm dilated”. Unlike with dilation, we can not check the effacement ourselves at home, but by the time that a woman goes into active labor she can expect to be 100 percent effaced and 10 cm dilated.
This can happen months before the baby arrives, but it almost always happens. Women get this unavoidable magical burst of energy and feel the need to clean and organize everything in preparation for the baby to come.
For some women this happens very early on in the pregnancy, but for other women this happens right before labor begins and they feel the need to prepare the nursery, dust, sweep, wash clothing, and make sure everything’s in tip top shape for when their little bundle of joy comes home for the very first time. Of course, that energy does fade when the woman comes home from the hospital and ends up with a lack of sleep. So, it’s a good thing they cleaned beforehand!