Signs That Can Occur Before Labor Start

Published: 28th April 2009
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When you are pregnant the moment you are in labor is a much-anticipated moment, one that many women are uncertain about because they are not sure what exactly constitutes true labor. A woman experiences a wide range of emotions for much of her pregnancy no more intense than when she thinks she is in labor and about to have her baby! What are the signs that she is finally in labor? How will she recognize these signs?

There are some basic signs that doctors and pregnant women look for that signal the start of true labor. Some signs occur from a few hours to a few days before the labor starts and can be used to guide the mom-to-be to get ready in earnest for the birth of her baby.

One sign that can occur before labor starts is called, "lightening". This is when the baby drops down into the pelvis in preparation for labor. This dropping down of the baby relieves pressure on the diaphragm, and allows the woman to breathe easier although she may start feeling more pressure on her bladder which will lead to more frequent bathroom trips. Other people may notice that the baby has dropped. Sometimes no one not even the pregnant mom notices when lightening occurs depending on how she is carrying the baby.

Another sign that your labor is about to start is losing the "bloody show" which is the mucus plug that protects your cervical opening from having bacteria enter it that may cause infection to the baby. The cervix thins and relaxes in preparation for the work of labor to come. As the cervix thins and relaxes the mucus plug will loosen and come out when the woman goes to the bathroom and wipes. The plug looks like stringy mucus or a very thick discharge. The color may be clear, or it can be tinged with blood giving it a pink color. The plug may be lost hours or even days before labor begins. If the plug is lost in little bits instead of all at once, the woman may not notice that she is losing it.

A very easy to notice sign of labor is when the membranes or "bag of waters" breaks. This is actually amniotic fluid gushing or leaking out from the amniotic sac that has been the baby's home during the pregnancy. If the woman's membranes trickle as in a small leak, she may not be certain as to what is happening. She may think that she is merely passing urine from the pressure of the baby on her bladder. If she gushes amniotic fluid the sign will be hard to miss and she will be sure of the fact that her labor has started. Statistically only 1 in 10 pregnant women experience a gush of fluid.

Once you have lost your plug or have experienced leakage or a gushing of amniotic fluid you must not use tampons or have intercourse or do anything at all that may introduce bacteria into your vagina. Notify your doctor or midwife as soon as you notice that you have lost your plug or lose any amniotic fluid even if you just suspect that you may but are not sure.

A sign that most pregnant women have near the end of the pregnancy is what has been termed as "nesting". Up until now, the pregnant woman has been more apt to want to take a nap than be involved in any physical activity. As your due date approaches the mom-to-be will be obsessed (or so it will seem) with making lists of all the things she has to do to be ready for the arrival of her baby. She will "need" to clean everything, prepare a layette, get the nursery ready, arrange all the baby equipment just so in the baby's room, and make sure that both she and the baby will be ready for the big day. She will be able to do all of this because "nesting" involves getting a big burst of energy that happens just before labor begins.

Effacement or a thinning out of the cervix is one of the very last signs of labor, one that your doctor or midwife will look for and report to the expectant parents. Effacement is a cervical measurement and is measured in percentages. Effacement is determined by doing an internal examination of the woman's cervix. The mom-to-be will be told that she is 25% effaced, or 50% effaced, and then 75% and 100% effaced when she is ready to push the baby out. A woman experiences what is called Braxton Hicks contractions, which are the practice contractions that ready the woman's body for the real labor show. It is these Braxton Hicks contractions that start the effacement stage of labor.

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