Labor is experienced quite differently and uniquely by different mothers in different pregnancies. This variability many a time leave most mothers nervously anticipating for the first sign and are usually clouded by worry if it is the real deal or just a false alarm.
Labor, also called childbirth, is defined as the natural process by which the baby and products of conception leave the uterine cavity after maturation of the baby, it can also occur before term (preterm labor).
Many pregnant mothers, the questions they ask most is, when and how will it start, how long will it take? Getting to know the signs and symptoms of labor will help you to maintain calmness and reduces maternal emotional distress and maternal anxiety that can trigger the onset of labor either before the due date ( preterm labor) or at term.
Onset of labor early signs
When your expected delivery date is due, you might experience the following signs, and they may appear either as a combination or in sequence.
- Nesting behavior/ energy burst
An urge to clean and tidy up everything in the house also called nesting, it is an instinct that mothers may get as labor approaches. It comes with a feeling of energy burst with an irresistible urge of tiding up and getting the house ready for the new born.
Lightening, also called baby dropping, is when the baby’s head descends lower in the pelvis brim to facilitate its engagement on the pubic bones in preparation for the onset of labor.
It’s one of the earliest signs of labor and may occur a few days or hours before the onset of labor.
It is noticed when people around you comment that the baby has dropped, some mothers may observe a sudden baby movement, and others may not notice at all. Some may notice that the abdomen feels much lighter with ease during breathing and may be accompanied by pelvic pain.
Since the baby’s head will be putting pressure on the bladder, you may experience a frequent urge to urinate.
Activities that help stretch the pelvic muscles such; walking, squatting, or pelvic pregnancy tilts exercise during a few weeks or days to delivery assist in baby dropping.
- Show or a mucus plug
A mucous plug usually accumulates on the cervix during pregnancy. When the cervix begins to dilate, the mucous plug is released into the vagina and will appear as mucus discharge. It may appear clear, pinkish, or brownish. The mucus plug is referred to as ‘show’ once it has been discharged from the cervix.
- Strong regular contraction
As the cervical dilation begins, you will start to experience tightening of the abdominal muscle associated with pain on your lower abdomen that will radiate to your lower back. This will occur for about 30- 70 seconds and will come intermittently every 10mins.
It may feel like intense menstrual cramping with increased lower back pain and are signs of active labor when they occur more frequently and stronger.
Its referred to as labor contraction, they stimulate cervical dilation and help the baby to descend in readiness for delivery.
- Water breaking/rupture of membranes
During pregnancy, the baby grows inside the amniotic sac, fluid a bag that contains amniotic fluid that cushions and protect the featus as it grows
This water may break during labor, or before, when it happens, you will feel a sudden gush of water or trickling from your vagina, amniotic fluid is usually light, pale yellow or straw-colored. It may appear greenish and is typically a sign of meconium stain, an indication that the baby might be in distress.
Always note the color of the water when it breaks, and you are not yet at the hospital.
The appearance of the above signs indicates the onset of actual labor, going to your selected delivery hospital is advised, or calling your attending doctor.
Lamaze classes trains pregnant mothers to gain confidence and faith in their body’s ability to give birth. It equips the mother on how to anticipate and cope with the childbirth process and labor. Mamatoto offers this sessions to individuals and groups.
True labor vs. false labor
False labor is a common experience in pregnancy and may occur from the fourth month of pregnancy. They appear as Braxton hicks, a type of contraction that comes and goes but does not get stronger as they occur; they cause hardening or tightening of the abdominal muscles. They often stop with a change in position or walking.
Unlike contraction in false labor, those due to true labor increase in frequency and intensity as they occur, those due to false labor vary in intensity, are irregular, and will disappear after a short period.
Always have a birth plan and everything ready 1 week before the due date as labor may come earlier or after the due date. Select a good hospital for your delivery and always have the gynecologist or hospital emergency numbers ready.
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