Most first time moms are unsure about what to expect when they are in labor. They have a myriad of questions about labor and water breaking. Pregnant women may wonder whether they have cramps, contractions or an upset tummy. They also wonder how they’d know if their water breaks and what they should do if they go into labor.
The fear and uncertainty is understandable. Having the proper knowledge about labor, and being informed helps you stay calm when you experience it. In most cases, labor starts between the 37thand 42ndweek of pregnancy. Labor that occurs before the 37thweek is called preterm or early term. Labor between 39thand 40thweeks is called full term and after 42ndweek is a late term. It is believed that almost 60% of women go into labor on or before their estimated due date. If you go beyond 41 weeks, your doctor may recommend induction.
Signs of Labor Pain
Pregnant women experience signs of labor around their due date. The process of labor begins way before your due date and these signs will eventually alert you on your baby’s arrival. Here are some important signs your body gives before labor.
The Baby Drops
As your body prepares for labor, your baby may settle deeper into the pelvis, making you feel lighter. The pressure in the chest and abdomen is reduced, making it easier for moms to breathe and enjoy bigger meals. This may not mean that labor is close. It can take a couple of more weeks before your actual labor starts.
Nesting refers to the motherly instinct to build a safe space for the baby. Even when you’re feeling breathless and weak, you may feel the sudden urge to get up and set the house in order, or to ready your baby’s room with essential things that you need. It has been scientifically proven that nesting happens not only in other mammal species but also in humans. No matter how energetic you feel, make sure you take enough rest as labor might just be around the corner.
Contractions are yet another major sign of true labor. As you begin approaching closer to your due date, these contractions will become longer and stronger. Many moms don’t know if these are real or false contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. Our doctors at KIMS Cuddles can help you make the distinction between them.
Cervical Changes during labor
The opening of the uterus through which the baby is born, is known as the cervix. This opening is thick, closed, pointed towards the back, and has a layer of mucus all through the pregnancy, to protect the baby. Certain changes such as thinning of the cervix and dilation or opening of the cervix are a great indicator of start of labor. See your doctor who can tell you the extent of dilation.
Blood or Spotting
With the changes in cervix, new mothers will also shed the mucus plug. This drops out in a lump or discharge for a few days and is tinged with brown, pink, or red blood. This is a good indication that labor is close. However, not every pregnant woman will have this symptom. If you notice the bloody show between 32 and 34 weeks, make sure you call your doctor as it can be a sign of preterm labor.
Breaking of the water is one of the strongest symptoms of labor. It refers to the spontaneous rupture of the membranes where the amniotic sac ruptures and the fluid gushes out from the vagina. You should call your doctor immediately when your water breaks, or rush to the hospital.
Your body will release prostaglandins during the early stages of labor. This is responsible for softening the cervix and contracting the uterus. It also stimulates bowel movement, naturally emptying the bowel to make way for the baby. This is usually a good sign as it helps clean out your tummy and avoid any discomfort during labor. However, if you are experiencing too much diarrhea, seek advice from your doctor.
Although backache is normal during pregnancy, a severe pain could indicate back labor. The baby usually faces the mother’s spine while descending the birth canal. However, in some cases, the baby’s skull may hit the mother’s spine while descending and cause extreme lower back pain. This is one of the many signs of labor.
Certain symptoms such as diarrhea and backache are generic and might happen any time during the course of pregnancy. Make sure you let your doctor know about these during your regular check-up if you’re going through any of these. However, signs such as water breaking or bloody show could be exclusive signs of labor.
What to do when you’re in Labor
It is natural to be overwhelmed when you experience labor, especially if it is your first time. Make sure you stay calm and focused when you are in labor. Here are some things you can do to ease yourself:
- Find a quiet place to lie down and relax. Try to breathe normally as this helps you cope with contractions, and also stimulates your body to release oxytocin – which helps in labor progression.
- Make sure you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or juices to ease labor symptoms and prevent cramps that may occur due to dehydration.
- You might feel hungry when you’re in labor. Eat and drink in small amounts after consulting your doctor.
- Try alternating between resting and walking, or take a warm bath to ease pains and aches, as you wait for your baby to arrive.
You can also try breathing techniques or visual imagery to cope with contractions. Call your doctor, explain your symptoms and ask them if you should head to the hospital.
When to Go to Hospital
Your doctor will tell you what to do if you have contractions. You may be in labor if you think your contractions are consistent. Call your doctor immediately if you notice:
- Bright red bleeding or discharge
- Having a headache, changes in vision, tenderness in the upper abdomen, or sudden swelling
- Baby less active
- Back pain
- Contractions before 37 weeks or other signs of preterm labor
- Water breaking and if there is a green or brown color with foul odor
Once you get to the hospital, your doctor will confirm the contractions by carrying out a vaginal examination and checking for cervical changes. If you’re consulting one of the doctors at KIMS Cuddles, they will help you with the right advice about what to do until your labor gets stronger, and be there all the way through your pregnancy.