The question on the tip of every pregnant mamas tongue around 37 weeks (and until baby comes) is about her labor and what to expect. How will I know when it's really labor? Is it time yet? What will labor feel like? What will happen first?
For the sake of analogy, we are going to compare labor to getting sick with a cold. Some people get sick fast and wake up from a nap with sore throat and fever, others gradually feel worse throughout the course of a day and when the wake up the next morning they still aren't sure.
EARLY SIGNS OF LABOR
Labor is maybe soon - a few days, or weeks away
The items on this part of the list do not mean your kicking off labor right this minute, but that it is coming maybe soon. (Like you didn't already know that by now.) However if you are experiencing several of them together and also having contractions that are getting longer, stronger and closer together, it is most likely baby time!
Also called lightening, is when baby moves down to a lower position in your pelvis/pubic area. He is getting in a good spot to press evenly on your cervix from the inside and in turn tell your pituitary gland to get that oxytocin flowing.
It will feel like a heavy pressure or like your center of gravity suddenly got lower. Breath deeply! Less pressure on your diaphragm means more space for lungs to inhale and tummy feels better with more room to digest. Bathroom trips might increase in frequency and urgency (again) since baby is lower and now sitting right on top of your bladder.
You have a sudden urge to clean everything and make your house baby ready. From rearranging your entire house (and cleaning under everything along the way), to getting that pregnant body into every closet and down to every floorboard to make them sparkle. No messes in this house!
A natural symptom of pregnancy is to want to feel prepared. This may happen sooner in some mama's than others and is thought to be a primal instinct - nesting creates a safe space for baby to land. Nesting can happen throughout pregnancy or you may get a very strong nesting urge right near the end.
BURST OF ENERGY
Having a burst of energy to do tasks that before were not the least bit interesting...goes with the nesting sometimes. Before you were dragging your feet and tired of carrying that 15 lb belly (baby, fluid and placenta) around; you suddenly have energy to do it all!
This also transfers into restlessness as well. That motivation to be busy all the time can trail off into the evening when you know you should be resting...but you just cant stop thinking of things to clean!
Resist the urge to use all of the energy you have acquired by being SO pregnant! The biological reason behind it is that as tired as you were, you have some serious work ahead to get that baby out. This is your body getting ready for that labor of love! Save some for later, and try not to stay up too late in case labor does start.
Sometimes you are nesting and someone thinks you are doing too much for how pregnant you are... this (among other things) my make you feel very irritated. Also hormones in general can make you moody, and as they increase towards the end of pregnancy you will notice larger fluctuations.
Roll with it. Ride the ups, and the downs. And cry it out if you feel the tears welling. You know how if you are really frustrated and you cry about it - you feel better? Thats because crying releases oxytocin. Well, oxytocin induces labor... so let those tears fall. You will feel better I promise!
Softening (effacement) and opening (dilation) of the cervix are also only early signs of labor. (Unless of course you are having regular contractions.) Some women get checked and are 1-3 cm dilated as early as 35 weeks! This does not mean labor is here but that your body is doing all the right things to prepare for labor.
Dilation can also fluctuate, so don't get disheartened if the number changes from one check to the next. Your body is doing all the right things to prepare for labor. Trust it.
On that note, you can also decline cervical checks if you so desire. Knowing how dilated you are can be great! ...If your dilated. However sometimes good intentions can have negative consequences. It is your vagina and you say whose fingers go in it. If you have been in labor for several hours and don't want a low number to discourage you, or if would like to wait until labor (or until transition) to get a cervical check, that is YOUR decision.
LABOR IS VERY SOON
Closer than it was before?- days or hours away
BACK PAIN (Back Labor)
Some women experience back pain shortly before or as labor is kicking off. Baby's position (posterior facing - or "sunny side up - with her back against your back) can cause back pain that when coupled with contractions is quite intense.
Back pain by itself does not mark the beginning of labor. But, if you have back pain accompanied with contractions - this might be it!
Yes. diarrhea can be a sign of labor coming. Prostoglandins are a hormone like substance released by your body to soften the cervix (effacement) and begin contractions. One of their not so pleasant side effects is that they also hyperstimulate the bowels causing frequent stools and sometimes diarrhea.
If you have a doula, it may be weird but let them know if you experience diarrhea.
Suddenly feel super sick and cant even think of eating? Or threw up what you just ate and feel icky like you have morning sickness again?
Could be labor. A sudden surge in hormones can cause your body to have symptoms similar to those of morning sickness when you were adjusting to the increase for the first time. Lay down and rest. Drink water if you can, and let your doula know of the odd sudden change in the way you feel.
BLOODY SHOW or MUCUS PLUG
Spotting, pink or brown tinged mucus or chunks or mucus looking discharge are all normal at the end of pregnancy. The mucus plug is the 'stopper' that forms in the opening of the cervix as a barrier between the vagina and the uterus.
It is not uncommon to lose the mucus plug with a little bit of blood (bloody show) and is something you should communicate to your care providers. Though it is not something to be worried about, it means you are getting closer!
SIGNS OF LABOR : This is it!
Water breaking is a common term for a rupture of the membranes. This occurs when the amniotic sac breaks and amniotic fluid leaks out through the vagina. Although it is typically not the first thing to happen, It is the more obvious sign that labor is imminent. Water breaks first about 10-20% of the time.
It could be a gush or a trickle. Look at the clock, and call your care provider immediately. And of course, let your doula know as well! Contractions should start or you will be in active labor within 24 hours. Some care providers will let you go as long as 48 hours before discussing methods to augment labor.
If your water breaks do not put anything in your vagina. Relax and stay calm, keep it dark and quiet (to encourage oxytocin), or try and go to sleep and get some rest before your contractions wake you up.
The most important thing to remember is keep communication lines open with your care providers. They will help you to determine the next best step to keep mama and baby safe and laboring.
LONGER, STRONGER, CLOSER TOGETHER
What is the difference between braxton hicks contractions and full on labor contractions?? Here is some information to help you decide...
Braxton Hicks contractions
Belly gets hard like a rock - temporary abs of steel feeling
Uncomfortable no matter what you do
Focused on top of uterus or on the front of the belly
Heavy pressure on your belly
Triggered by fetal movements
Triggered by mama moving
Sex or pushing a bowel movement can also cause Braxton Hicks
DRINK WATER - sometimes Braxton Hicks can be a result of dehydration
Don't go away when you drink water and lay down
Radiate throughout the entire belly
Get stronger over time
Get longer over time
Get closer together over time
when you continue to try and ignore them, they keep coming or get longer, stronger, closer together regardless of your position
Also triggered by baby moving, you moving, or by sex
If you think your in Labor - talk to your care provider and doula!
If you are having contractions that are getting longer, stronger, and closer together... you are most likely in labor.
If your not in labor and are getting tired of being pregnant, Keep your head up mama! You are almost there. Things are happening and your body is getting ready even if you don't notice it.
Your baby is the best one to decide their birthday. Physiologically they know when their body is ready for life on earth and will signal your body that it is time.
You are a pregnant goddess and I believe in your ability to birth this baby. Keep Calm and Labor On.