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Many pregnant women, especially those who are having their first babies, are eager to know what signs labor is coming soon they should watch out for. A normal pregnancy usually lasts for 38 to 42 weeks, but only up to five percent of babies are actually born on their due dates. If you are late into the last trimester of your pregnancy, you may experience symptoms of early labor anytime. But then again, a few women are not aware of these and they might want to plan ahead in case labor starts very soon.
10 Signs Labor Is Coming Soon
If you are wondering when your baby is actually coming, you are among the many pregnant women who are eagerly waiting for signs that the doctor or other women have been talking about. Actually, each woman has a unique experience about labor and delivery, but here are some common tell-tale signs that you are about to give birth soon.
1. You Feel Your Baby “Drop”
Around one to four weeks before labor begins, you may feel your baby “dropping” or descending low into your pelvis. For first-time mothers, this might happen late or just before labor starts. This process, also called “lightening,” occurs as the baby’s head descends into the pelvis, causing mothers to waddle and take frequent trips to the bathroom.
2. You Have Increased Back Pain and Occasional Cramps
It is not unusual for mothers who are in their last trimester to experience increased lower back pain, as well as discomfort in their groins as the baby becomes heavier and descends into the pelvis. Occasional cramps or contractions in the uterus may also occur, but these are often mild and short-lasting. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. These are not the same as labor contractions, which are more painful and longer-lasting contractions that increase intensity.
3. Your Joints Seem to Feel Looser
Your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens your ligaments and relaxes them, making your joints feel looser. This is actually nature’s way of relaxing your pelvic joints to allow room for your baby to make its way through the birth passages.
4. You Have Loose Bowel Movements
The hormones produced by your body to facilitate the birth of your baby may also stimulate your bowels to move more often, which may result in frequent trips to the bathroom or diarrhea. It may be annoying, but this is natural. During labor, you may also experience the urge to move your bowels. The best way to handle this is to keep hydrated by drinking lots of fluids.
5. You May Lose Weight
Towards the end of your pregnancy, weight gain levels off and you stop gaining or start losing weight. This should not be a cause for worry because it will not affect the baby’s weight at birth. Although you are losing a few pounds because of increased activity and frequent bathroom breaks, your baby is still gaining weight.
6. Your Cervix Starts to Open Up
As your body prepares for your baby’s birth, signs labor is coming soonbegin with your cervix becoming thinner (effacing) and opening (dilating) just a little bit. During your regular check-up, your doctor will conduct an internal exam to see if your cervix is getting ready for labor. However, it will not dilate rapidly unless regular contractions occur and it may remain only 50% effaced for a few weeks before actual labor begins.
7. You Have Thick Vaginal Discharge
You may notice an increase in the amount or thickness of your vaginal discharge a few weeks before labor begins. A mucous plug, which acts like a cork sealing your cervical opening, may come off in one piece with a faint streak of blood or it may look like a thick, pinkish or brownish discharge. This is called the bloody show, which is an indication that labor is forthcoming.
8. You Have Stronger and More Frequent Uterine Contractions
One of the reliable signs labor is coming soon is the onset of strong, frequent contractions, which become more intense, painful and longer-lasting than the occasional contractions that you feel weeks before labor occurs. These are true contractions that do not go away even if you change positions. Pain may start in the lower back and move to the lower abdomen, possibly affecting your legs.
At first, contractions may occur several minutes apart and may be tolerable. However, as labor progresses, these contractions progress follow a regular pattern, which may occur every five minutes or fewer, each lasting about a minute. You will start feeling a lot of pain and discomfort, but this is a good sign that your baby is coming soon.
9. You May Experience Shivering
During early labor, you may experience involuntary shivering even if you’re not cold. This can also occur during or after birth, which can be frightening. Don’t worry because it is just your body relieving tension and it often lasts for only a few minutes. Try to find a way to do something relaxing by taking a warm shower, getting a massage, or practicing deep breathing.
10. You Suddenly Leak Water
You may be surprised when your water breaks, which is one of the sure signs labor is coming soon. However, this sign does not always occur early and only about 15% to 25% of women experience the rupture of their amniotic sacs before labor begins. The amniotic fluid, which serves as a protective environment for your baby, may not come out as dramatically as seen in the movies, but may just appear as a leak. You may use a sanitary pad to keep yourself dry while you call your doctor or midwife. However, if the fluid gushes and soaks your napkin, call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital because labor may be imminent.
When to Go to the Hospital
First-time mothers are often not sure whether they are in true labor and may go to the hospital too early, only to be sent home because of false labor. Or, they may have to spend a long time in the hospital waiting for a long, protracted labor.
Doctors usually advise mothers to call them when contractions are strong and regular, usually when they are five minutes apart. However, signs labor is coming soon that should prompt you to call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately include:
- Any vaginal bleeding that is bright-red in color
- Water breaks with greenish or brown color, a sign that your baby is in distress
- Unusual symptoms like headache, vision changes, and unusual body swelling, which may indicate pregnancy-induced hypertension orpreeclampsia.