As an expectant mother, you’re probably wondering what the early signs of labor are as you prepare for delivery. There are many signs that indicate you’re nearing or in labor. You may experience all or just a few of the signs, as every delivery is different but knowing what’s normal should give you some peace of mind as your due date draws closer.
There are multiple stages to labor, and you’ll usually experience the longest stage in the comfort of your own home. This is the time your body prepares to deliver the baby, but isn’t quite ready to go into active labor. This is called early labor. You can tell the signs of early labor when you experience:
- Loss of mucus plug
While your body is preparing for labor, it may discharge the mucus plug. The mucus plug seals off your uterus to protect it from the outside world. It looks like the mucus in your nose and may come out in one piece or your body may discharge it in little pieces. Some women don’t even notice their mucus plug, and some women don’t lose their mucus plug until the actual delivery.
- Vaginal discharge changes color and consistency
You may notice increased vaginal discharge, or changes to its color or consistency. It may turn pinkish, which is called a bloody show. A bloody show is one of the signs labor is near.
Contractions are sometimes a sign of labor, and sometimes they’re Braxton Hicks, or “practice contractions.” You can experience Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks or months before delivery. You can tell they’re different from true contractions because they won’t be painful, although they may feel uncomfortable. They’ll cause your abdomen to become hard and a little pointy. They usually become more intense and more frequent when you get closer to your due date.
You’ll know your contractions are real when they get stronger instead of ease up as Braxton Hicks do. When you change positions, real contractions will not go away whereas Braxton Hicks will. Most of all, you’ll know your contractions are real when they fall into a regular pattern and intensity builds over time. Your real labor contractions will feel very close to strong menstrual cramps.
You may not notice any changes in effacement, but your health care provider will look for it as one of the signs of labor. Effacement is when the cervix shortens and thins to be able to stretch. This is to accommodate for the baby’s head passing through the cervix. Your healthcare provider will be able to measure how effaced you are from 0% to 100%.
One of the signs of labor is dilation, when your cervix stretches and opens. You usually dilate 0 to 6 centimeters in early labor, and you reach a full 10 centimeters during active labor. Your healthcare provider will measure your progress in labor by checking how much your cervix has opened. Your cervix dilates and effaces directly from contractions.
- Low backache
When you’re in labor, your backache won’t go away when you change positions or move. You may have felt some discomfort during Braxton Hicks contractions, but your back pain will feel more intense during true labor.
When to Go to the Hospital
If you think you’re in labor, you should always call your healthcare provider. They’re familiar with your pregnancy and will be able to decide when you should go to the hospital. Don’t feel embarrassed to call and ask if you’re not sure.
You should always call your provider if:
- Contractions are 4 minutes apart
If your contractions are as close as 4 minutes apart, you may already be in active labor. It’s important to get to the hospital so you have the medical attention you need.
- You’re bleeding
If you experience a bloody show, it’s time to head to the hospital. You may have discharged the mucus plug, which is a sign you’re going into labor. This also means your baby isn’t as well protected from outside germs and bacteria.
- Your water breaks
Only about 15% of women experience their water breaking before they give birth to their baby. It may not happen for you, but if it does, it’s a sure sign to head to the hospital. Your water breaking may feel like a gush of water or a slight trickle. If the fluid is greenish or brownish, it is especially important to get to the hospital. It may contain meconium, which is your baby’s first stool. Your doctor will want to know right away because it’s dangerous for your baby to ingest meconium during birth.
- Blurred vision, severe headache, or sudden swelling
Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure that requires medical attention. Double vision, blurred vision, sudden swelling, and severe headache are all symptoms of preeclampsia, so go to the hospital if you experience any one of these symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will be with you every step of the way, and they’re always available to take your call if you have questions about your unique pregnancy. If you’re looking for a trustworthy provider and live in the Tucson area, book an appointment today.
Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust? Do you live in the Tucson area? Book an appointment today!