How To Recognize Signs of Labor

After months of discomfort, unusual eating patterns and exhaustion, your due date is almost here! You are filled with anticipation to finally meet your new baby and you may begin to experience some labor symptoms. Don't let yourself be fooled by false symptoms. Here are some signs that labor is really on the way.

  1. The baby drops (lightening). Ahhh, you can breathe! The pressure released from your lungs may indicate that the baby has dropped further into your pelvis, giving your lungs room to expand. The flip side to this relief is that you may experience increased pressure on your bladder, causing you to run to the bathroom more often.
  2. Passing the mucous plug. The mucous plug seals your birth canal during pregnancy and protects the uterus from bacteria and germs. When it is discharged, it may appear pink or blood-tinged. It happens most often while using the bathroom and you may notice spotted underwear or tissue paper. It may happen all at once or small amounts over a few days. Labor can begin immediately, within a few hours, days or even weeks after losing the mucous plug.
  3. Water breaking. The water is actually your amniotic sac that surrounds your baby. When the membranes rupture, it can produce a large gush or just a trickle. It is rare that this happens before the onset of labor but if you notice, or even suspect that your water broke, call your doctor immediately.
  4. Contractions. This it the tell-tale, obvious sign of labor. You may have felt Braxton Hicks contractions, or false labor, as early as 20 weeks. These contractions are typically irregular and do not come closer together. If it is true labor, the contraction pain is increasingly painful, more intense and consistent. Start timing the contractions and as they become closer together and last longer, contact your doctor. They should come about 4-6 minutes apart and last between 30 seconds up to two minutes. Ask your partner to help chart your contractions; include start time, end time, frequency and duration.
  5. Backache. If you have a slight backache that seems to come and go, you could really be having contractions that you are feeling in your back. The baby's position could be causing you to experience back labor. Time this pain as if it is a contraction to see if there is a pattern and increased frequency.
  6. Nesting. Some women experience a burst of energy just before the baby arrives. After 9 months of wanting nothing more than a relaxing nap, you may feel like you want to clean, plan, make shopping lists and more. Try to save some of that energy as you may be having a baby any day now!
  7. Preterm labor. Not all cases of preterm labor can be prevented, but there are signs every woman should be aware of. Things like bright, red blood from your vagina, continuous vomiting, a low backache or intense pelvic pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms you should contact your health care provider to determine if there are any issues. Detecting issues early may help you carry your baby to term.


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