Signs of Labor

Signs of Labor lists the Pre-labor symptoms and the signals that your labor and delivery are imminent. Get ready for the time of your life! I hope you have an easy labor.

You may start feeling some anxiety and apprehension, or worry about the labor pains you may suffer and whether you will be able to cope. I remember feeling pretty nervous before the birth of my first child and my mom told me that it was like passing motion...NOT! When I confronted my mom after the birth, she laughed and said, "Of course labor pains are painful, how could it not be?" I opted for an epidural the next time round.

Stages of Labor

Medical definitions of labor divide it into 3 stages of labor. In the first stage, the cervix opens fully to allow the baby to pass through. In the second stage, the baby is born. In the last stage, the placenta is delivered.

However, most women experience symptoms of pre-labor. Hormones are secreted by your uterus and the baby to prepare your body for birth. These Pre-labor symptoms affect each woman in varying degrees of intensity.

The baby plays a major role in why labor starts.The onset of labor is triggered by hormones secreted by the baby. You may notice that your baby is quieter than in previous months. From time to time, there may be a flurry of movement. However, if his movements appear to have ceased completely, please contact your doctor.

You might have heard the stories of babies being strangled by their own umbilical cord, rest assured that it is a very, very rare occurrence, so don't worry unnecessarily. Just trust your own instincts, and if you feel that something is worng, just check with your doctor to reassure yourself.

Engagement

The baby positions himself for the journey through the birth canal by moving lower down so that his head (usually) settles into your bony pelvis. You may experience it as a feeling of lightening. The pressure on your diaphragm eases and breathing becomes easier. However, you might have to pass urine more frequently, as the baby will now be pressing down on your bladder.

For first pregnancies, this occurs about 2 to 3 weeks before the onset of labor. If you have had previous babies, the baby may remain higher until just before labor starts, as your uterine muscles may have stretched and so exert less pressure on your baby.

Braxton Hicks' Contractions

Your uterus practises for the strong contractions needed in labor with weak, irregular contractions. The majority of women feel them during the last few months. If you place your hand on your abdomen, you may feel a hardening and tightening of your uterus, which lasts for approximately 25 seconds.

These contractions are painless although some women may find them uncomfortable (it may also feel like cramping during pregnancy). If you feel any discomfort, just sitting down quietly should help ease them.

Runs of Braxton Hicks' contractions may become more frequent and intense as real labor approaches, practise your relaxation techniques that you intend to use during labor. Braxton Hicks' contractions help to prepare the cervix for dilatation and increases the circulation of blood to the placenta.

Nesting Instinct

You may feel a surge of energy to make final preparations for the arrival of your baby. If you feel the urge to rush around cleaning the house or cooking large meals, restrain yourself. You will need the extra energy later for coping with labor and delivery.

Right before my babies were born, I had the overwhelming urge to organize my house. Of course, that task can never be complete with kids around.

The Show

An obvious sign that labor is imminent is the appearance of the Show. That is the plug of mucus that seals your cervix in pregnancy, providing protection against infection. Although the Show often does not appear until labor is underway, the cervix may widen enough for the mucus plug to be dislodged up to 12 days before labor begins. This sticky substance may be slightly brown, pink or blood-tinged from the capillaries that attached it to the cervix. The Show signals dilatation of the cervix.

Premenstrual Feelings

You may feel physical and emotional changes similar to what you experience premenstrually. You may also feel crampy, with pressure in the rectum, and feel the need to empty your bowels and pass urine frequently.


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