What are the signs of labour?

I am starting to think a lot about labour this week, in a different way to how I did when I was pregnant with my first. I suppose because I’ve already been through it before it is only natural that my concerns about labour would differ from one pregnancy to the next.

What are the signs of Labour? 

It is very important to understand that every woman’s experience of labour is different and that just because you may expect certain things to happen, and in a particular order doesn’t neccesarily mean that they will. There is also no way to predict exactly when labour will start or how soon your baby will arrive when you’re in labour. You may notice early signs of labour which is great it means your body is preparing itself, although the birth of your baby could still be days if not weeks away.

Your body will start to prepare for labour in the upcoming weeks before baby’s arrival. Watch out for early signs of labour. 

  • Lightening; When baby “drops”. This means your baby is now resting lower into your pelvis. You may be able to noticeably see that your bump has dropped, as well as feeling less pressure up high against your ribs. Although, for me this meant i now walked like a cross between a cowboy and a duck.
  • You may experience more frequent Braxton Hicks.
  • You may pass your “bloody show” also known as your mucus plug. This is a brown/pink mucus like discharge that was sealing off the cervical canal. (Having sex could also disturb your mucus plug resulting in a bloody discharge though, this does not necessarily mean that you are in labour.
  • Loose bowels or an upset tummy.
  • Nesting; Most women experience a sudden burst of energy in the upcoming days of labour whereby you may rewash all of your baby’s wardrobe and have an urge to clean all of the skirting boards with a toothbrush. Either way its a good sign that labour could be soon!

Signs you’re in labour!

  • Pain in your lower back, period-like pain, cramps
  • Painful contractions that may be irregular to begin with, they also may stop and start so don’t be disheartened.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • I for one felt very emotional. In between contractions I remember feeling every emotion! Restless, anxious, excited, nervous, moody, angry, sleepy, upset. So it is important to have some kind of support.
  • Your waters may break. This is amniotic fluid that protected your baby in your uterus. If your waters break at home you should call your midwife/maternity unit to let them know. (My waters didn’t break until an hour before I started pushing at the hospital so don’t wait for them to break before you consider yourself in labour)

Watch this video by Liz Chalmers on how your cervix dilates during childbirth! She uses a balloon and a pig pong ball its great!

When will I know if it’s real labour or Braxton Hicks Contractions? 

Almost everyone I spoke to in my last pregnancy told me that I would ‘just know’ when I was having real contractions. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I could just know. After all, I had never felt them before. How do you know when its the real thing? What if its just Braxton Hicks again? Honestly, Braxton Hicks feel very different to real contractions even though at times you may think they are the real thing.

Braxton Hicks contractions are tightenings of your uterus that last around 30 seconds, if you place your hands on your bare bump you can often feel your tummy getting harder. All women will have these practice contractions from around 16 weeks and some if not most may go by unnoticed. They are often said to be painless, however as most women know, they can take your breath away at times, especially as your pregnancy progresses. When they do become more painful they can confuse you with real contractions especially for someone who doesn’t know quite what to expect, and for those wishing it was the start of their labour! So how can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions?

Braxton Hicks Contractions;

  • Usually only happen once or twice in an hour, a couple of times a day, sporadically.
  • They don’t last for very long, usually around 30 seconds up to a minute.
  • They will not increase in strength
  • They will not increase in length
  • Can be very irregular
  • They can often go away if you walk around if you have been sitting for a while, or sit down if you have been standing for  while.

Whereas labour contractions;

  • Become regular to the point where you can time them and know when to expect the next.
  • Increase in length
  • Increase in intensity
  • Will not go away if you change position
  • Will be more painful.

 

J x

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