The most common clues that your baby is finally on their way.
If you’re late in the last trimester of your pregnancy, you’re probably eagerly awaiting the day your baby arrives. But everyone experiences labour differently so it’s often hard to tell if what you’re feeling is the real deal. Here are some of the more common signs of labour to look out for as you near your delivery date.
1. You have strong and regular contractions
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, and sometimes even as early as the second trimester, you might have false contractions or what are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These are like practice contractions that get your body ready for labour. Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular, don’t last that long and will go away if you stand up or walk around.
Real labour contractions on the other hand, become regular. When your contractions have been 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart for an hour and get worse when you stand up and walk around, pick up the bag you packed last week, get in the car and head to the hospital.
2. Your water breaks
This doesn’t happen like it does in the movies, in a great deluge. While some women do feel a big gush of liquid, most only feel a slight trickle that is easy to mistake for pee. Especially since amniotic fluid can leak for days.
If you think your water has broken, write down the time it happened, how much fluid was released, what the fluid looked like, then call your doctor or the hospital and let them know what happened. When your water breaks, the barrier protecting your baby from infection is gone, so your hospital will usually ask you to head in right away.
For many women, their amniotic sac doesn’t break during labour and the doctor has to rupture it for them.
3. You notice a discharge
When you’re pregnant, your cervix stays closed and is plugged up with mucus to protect your baby from infection. As you get closer to labour, your cervix starts to dilate and soften as it prepares for delivery. This causes the mucus to dislodge and it passes out as one big glob or bit by bit as a runny smear.
Blood vessels can tear as the cervix opens so it’s normal if the discharge is tinged with blood and slightly pink. But if you’re passing a large amount of bright red blood, call your doctor immediately.
Passing the mucus plug means your body is readying itself for childbirth but it could still be hours, days or weeks before labour begins.
4. You have loose stools
As your body readies for childbirth, it releases chemicals that cause the uterus to contract and the cervix to dilate. These same chemicals also overstimulate the bowels, causing frequent stools or even diarrhoea.
5. Your back is killing you
Your back may have been aching for months but if the pain suddenly becomes excruciating, you’re probably ready to deliver. There are two things that can cause intense back pain.
First, early labour contractions can radiate from the back to the front, causing a lower back ache similar to backaches you get when you’re having your period. You can time these just like you would contractions that start in the abdomen.
Second, you might be experiencing back labour. Babies usually go through the birth canal with their face pressed against their mother’s spine. But in a third of pregnancies the baby faces the other way and their skull hits their mother’s spine, causing pain that is concentrated in the back.
Either way, it means you’re headed to the delivery room.
Helpful Hint: Even experienced mums sometimes think they’re in labour when they’re not. So to avoid being sent home after rushing to the hospital, call your doctor, hospital or midwife first and describe what you’re feeling. They’ll be able to advise you on whether you should head to the hospital or not.