Symptoms Your Baby Is On The Way

How can you tell you are in labor and not experiencing false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions? What does it feel like when your water breaks? Being pregnant is an exciting time, but for many women (especially first time moms) not knowing what to expect with childbirth and labor can make you feel anxious. Read on to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms that labor is starting.

Michelle Maffei

Pregnant womanNesting
The sudden urge to clean and decorate is common for many expectant women in their last trimester. This desire to prepare your “nest” for your baby-to-be can be helpful, but be sure not to overdo it; you’ll need to save some energy for your labor and delivery!

Get tips for designing and decorating your baby nursery here.

If you notice increased pressure in your pelvis, it’s likely that your bun in the oven is making her descent as your cervix prepares for childbirth. Other signs that lightening is in the works is your increased need to urinate and your ability to breath easier as those little feet give your diaphragm more room.

Cervical changes
As your delivery date approaches, your cervix will begin to make way for baby and dilate and thin in a process known as effacement. The eventual goal is 10 centimeters, but the process can begin weeks, days, or hours before your actual delivery. The only way to truly know if you’ve begun dilatation and effacement is during your weekly checks by your OB.

Bloody show
Passing your mucus plug may be obvious or happen without your noticing, so don’t put all your energy into waiting for this sign of labor. Also known as “bloody show,” blood vessels break as the cervix dilates, leaving shades of brown, pink, or red in the mucus. The plug may come out all in one piece, or may dislodge pieces over time in your discharge.

Mild to moderate contractions
You may feel contractions as early as a couple of weeks before your big day. They’re sometimes referred to as Braxton Hicks, but, don’t dismiss these contractions as “false labor.”

“When labor starts and stops, it is usually the body’s way of getting ready, aligning for labor to go the distance,” advises Betsy Mercogliano, local doula, childbirth educator, and doula trainer from Family Life Center. “So, there is no such thing [as false labor] in my book. The difference between the labor that starts and then stops and the one that brings the baby out into the world is just that – one keeps going, grabs the woman’s attention totally and brings the baby out.”

However, you may notice a difference in your contractions as you start to move from early labor to active labor. Your contractions may be accompanied by back pain and do not diminish when you change positions. You may also lose your ability to talk through your contraction as they intensify.

Get more tips here for timing contractions.

“Water” breaks
Also known as ruptured membranes, only a few women’s water breaks before she gets to the hospital. However, if it does, this experience can range from a trickle of amniotic fluid to a gush, depending on the position of both mommy and baby. The only time there is need for alarm is if the amniotic fluid isn’t clear or odorless; in this case, contact your doctor immediately.

As the anticipation of your delivery date approaches, try and get as much rest as you can. Once the signs and symptoms of labor escalate into the big event, time your contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. Once they last for one minute and are occurring every five minutes, grab your bag and head to the hospital…you’re about to meet the newest addition to your family!

Use our contraction timer to easily keep track of your contractions!

Video: What to expect during childbirth

More tips on labor and delivery:

-- How to manage labor pain duirng childbirth and delivery

-- Effective birthing positions

-- How long does labor last the first time?

-- Is it false labor?

-- More tips on labor and delivery

Tags: signs

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