The true signs of labor that will help you recognize that it's around the corner.

The signs of labor are real and reliable indicators for every pregnant mom to know it’s time for labor as she approaches the end of pregnancy. At 37th week of pregnancy, many expecting moms begin to worry about labor, wondering when it may start, the preparation they can make and most importantly, how will they know about it?

Getting some clear-cut answers to such common questions among most would-be moms sounds a good idea to us and we believe knowing the signs of labor; changes and symptoms that precede labor is the very first step to alleviate these concerns.

Many women worry that they may not recognize the beginning of labor, but you're unlikely to mistake the signs when the time really comes, even though these signs may show up weeks, days or hours before true labor begins. The main signs that labor is beginning are:

1. Regular Contractions – Getting stronger and closer together.

Contractions are one of the signs of labor that you can easily recognize and mostly misinterpreted by expecting moms. Throughout pregnancy, uterine muscles usually contract, practising for labor. In the last weeks of pregnancy, you'll probably notice these contractions happening more often.

Initially you may get very mild contractions accompanied with backache or the kind of aching you experience during your monthly period. Time the spaces between the contractions you have. If it’s real, the contractions should gradually grow stronger and come more often.

When they are coming regularly, about every ten to fifteen minutes, or when you feel you can no longer cope on your own, it's time to call the hospital for check in. If you live a long way from the hospital, or if this is not your first baby, it’s advised you go to the hospital immediately.

Importantly, you must know that you may feel sick or have diarrhea as well. This is primarily because your body releases prostaglandins, substances that help the uterus contract especially in a few days ahead of labor. These substances however may cause diarrhea and make you feel sick.

In addition, you should know about false contractions called Braxton Hicks contractions. These are quite different from the real contractions that happen in labor. In Braxton Hicks you feel your abdomen get hard, and then relax again. These irregular cramps are usually painless, short-lived but may be uncomfortable or painful sometimes.

How can I tell that the contractions am having are false or real?

Well, there is nothing to worry about contractions. Just relax and be calm. If the contractions are gone, that means it was a false alarm, but if they are still occurring, then inform your doctor right away. Contractions with the under-listed characteristics are true signs of labor:

  • Occur at regular intervals- getting stronger and progressive with the passage of time.
  • Initially last for 30 seconds with the duration gradually increasing to 90 seconds.
  • Changing posture does not help to relieve true contractions.
  • Increased activity may increase the pains instead of providing a relief (as is the case with Braxton Hicks Contractions).

2. The bloody show or discharge of the thick plug of mucus.

There is an accumulation of mucus in the form of plug that seals-up the neck of your womb and protects your developing child from infection.

Either before labour starts, or sometimes during the first stage of labor, the plug of mucus falls-off and is passed out of the vagina especially as your cervix starts to thin-out or efface, and dilate in build-up to labor and delivery. This is called a “show'.

If it happens before you go into labor, you may notice it as just a small amount of sticky, pinkish mucus. The release of this mucus plug can take place with or without damaging the blood vessels. If the vessels are damaged, blood comes along with the mucus.

Let your healthcare provider know you’ve had a 'show' as soon as possible. You’ll be advised on what to do. You don't lose a lot of blood with a 'show' - just a little, mixed with the mucus. If you are losing more blood, it is a sign that something is wrong. Call your hospital or doctor immediately.­

3. The Water-breaking Experience

If my water broke; does that mean I’m going to have a baby soon? Well, the breaking of a sac of waters or amniotic fluid surrounding your baby is one of the reliable signs of labor. The waters can break at any time without warning. It may break right at the beginning of labor or not until labor is well underway.

If your bag of waters breaks first, before labor begins, you will notice either a slow trickle or leak of fluid from your vagina, else you may have a sudden gush of water that you can't control.

As a general advice therefore, if you’re close to your due date and you're going out, don’t forget to have a sanitary towel along to help you catch the flow if your waters should break outside the home.

If you don’t feel any intensified contractions after your water breaking experience, you need to stay at home until you feel the contractions as they should be. If you’re however uncertain about whether or not you are starting labor, or about whether or not it’s time for you to go into hospital, get in touch with your doctor and report, you’ll be told what to do.

Timing at this stage is very critical. If water breaks and contractions don’t start on their own afterwards, most doctors usually have to induce labor.

4. Lower Back ache or pain

The experience of incessant lower back ache right before labor is also one of the signs of labor to look-out for. This is because as labor approaches, your baby tends to lower down into the pelvis especially in most first pregnancies, thus putting painful pressure on your spine and vagina.

You’ll feel these pains in your abdomen such that you haven't had before, a backache which seems different from any backache you've had in pregnancy. The pain might be mild but if the pain and restlessness becomes excruciating, contact your doctor.

Are there any other signs of labor?

Yes, there are other labor signs. You’ll be surprised to know that a sudden boost in energy; when you feel like cleaning everything in the house, setting up your baby’s nursery or crib and you suddenly feel the energy to put everything in order. This is also a labor sign.

This unusual instinct that you have developed is called "Nesting", it usually begins in the 8th or 9th month of pregnancy and it lasts till you rush to the hospital for delivery. No one knows the reason that causes nesting, but it’s surely one of those famous signs of labor which tell you that your due season for labor and childbirth is here!

Effacement and Dilation of the cervix are part of the earliest signs of labor. They usually starts in the last few weeks of pregnancy but most expecting moms are totally unaware of such change as it takes place inside the uterus.

In addition, you should take note of some other unusual signs of labor which include; weight loss due to changes in body fluid, cramps, diarrhea and restlessness.

Learning about the signs of labor will help you significantly to understand the onset of childbirth process. When you’re approaching your due date, you need to stay alert and look for these signs of labor and remember to inform your healthcare provider right away if any of the above signs show up before pregnancy week 36.

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