If a pregnant woman is attentive to her body signals, she will not miss early signs of labor and will be ready to meet with her beloved baby.
In the last weeks of pregnancy, there is a smooth change in the hormonal profile of a woman. Natural placenta aging decreases progesterone levels, and the relative amount of another female hormone — estrogen, in contrast, is growing. Progesterone «reigned» in the body during the entire period of gestation, ensuring conservation of pregnancy. Estrogen works differently. It prepares a woman’s body for childbirth. When the concentration of estrogen in the blood reaches its maximum, brain receptors perceive this condition as a signal to childbirth.
The changes that occur in pregnant women under the influence of changing hormones cause early labor signs. They are the logical final stage of pregnancy, which in Obstetrics is often called the preparatory stage of labor, the purpose of which is to provide a soft, less traumatic promotion of the fetus through the birth canal. First signs of labor can be observed in 38th -39th weeks of pregnancy, but sometimes they appear a day or two before delivery. If it is your second pregnancy, signs, and symptoms of labor may appear later and be more evident.
13 signs and symptoms of labor
- One of the most evident labor signs is that your baby «drops». This process is based on anatomical changes in late pregnancy. If the baby is head-down in this period, his head drops even lower and now it’s a little more fixed. In medical language, the baby’s head descends into the pelvis. The upper part of the uterus also descends and doesn’t compress your lungs and stomach anymore. Women rarely leave this early sign of labor without attention, because it’s easier for them to breathe now.
- Changing body posture. Now the uterus is in a lower position and a woman’s center of gravity is changing. A woman acquires a characteristic proud look, she slightly throws back her head, and the gait becomes «duck-like».
- An increase in the quantity of vaginal discharge happens because the lower part of the fetal bladder is now detached from the uterus walls. This process sometimes suggests possible leakage of amniotic fluid. Expectant mothers may worry about it. To clarify the situation you can use a special test for fast diagnosis, which will reliably show whether there is amniotic fluid in the vaginal discharge or not.
- Changes of the cervix. You can’t feel or see this sign of labor. It is noticeable only for a doctor at the vaginal examination, but, perhaps, pregnant women will be eager to learn about this process. Previously, the cervix, in which the baby will move during childbirth, was like a pipe about 4 cm long, with narrow holes on both sides. Now it looks different. Inside, where the infant’s head is, it opens up quite wide. Its narrow part is now only 1−2 cm long and still looks like a tube. The second ‘entrance’ hole also becomes wider. Now it is passable for one finger. Fetal membranes are now very close and easily accessible for infections. That’s why in this period a pregnant woman shouldn’t take a bath, only a shower.
- No appetite! You do not want to eat, and it’s very strange because during pregnancy you’ve been eating a lot! Now even your favorite strawberries and chocolate do not cause any emotions. In fact, your body gets rid of superfluous weight. Moreover, soon it will need much strength, which now cannot be wasted on digestion.
- If you carefully monitor your weight, you may notice that in the last weeks of pregnancy theweight falls 1−2 kg. This is because swelling decreases. If earlier, your socks left their distinct marks on the ankles and now you can see none — it’s time to start preparing for the meeting with your newborn.
- Passing of the mucus plug is also one of the early signs of labor. It is very important to understand what a mucus plug is. This accumulation of mucus is usually a little denser than your daily vaginal discharge. It may be transparent or have slight blood streaks, Its volume is of about 2−3 ml. If you have noticed bleeding or profuse watery discharge, contact your doctor, this can be a dangerous symptom.
- Increased frequency of urination and defecation is observed because the fetal bladder weighs upon pelvic organs. It should be noted that, according to some experts, stool dilution happens under the influence of high concentrations of estrogen. This early sign indicates that a woman will soon be in labor. Other early labor signs and symptoms can last for several weeks.
- Emergence or strengthening of practice contractions. In contrast to true, these contractions are irregular and almost painless. They have different duration. Thus, the muscles of the uterus, which soon will have to work hard, are getting ready. It’s their specific warming up.
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen and back. It’s not a sharp pain, but drawing and aching feeling as a result of natural sprains. If this is not the first birth, a pregnant woman may have no such signs of labor.
- Changes in the activity of the fetus. Another early sign of labor is changing the motor activity of the fetus. Just before labor, most women notice that the baby is behaving differently. It can subside for a long time, and then, on the contrary, move strongly and actively. In other words, the fetus begins to move erratically: first, periods of silence and then sharp active movements.
- Nesting syndrome. Another sign of the imminent onset of labor is nesting syndrome, which you can usually observe 1−2 weeks before childbirth. A woman begins to create the most comfortable atmosphere for her future baby. She cleans the house, irons the newborn’s clothes again and again.
- Sudden mood changes. In the same period, a pregnant woman and her relatives see a dramatic change in her mood. Joy, tears, irritation, alertness, calm, incredible activity, bursts of emotion and apathy can change unexpectedly and at incredible speed. The reason for this is hormonal processes in the body of a pregnant woman before delivery.
Two signs that you are in labor
- Contractions is another clear sign of the onset of labor. Contractions contribute to the disclosure of the cervix for the passage of the fetus. These uterine contractions are regular. They are accompanied with drawing pains in the lower abdomen and repeat periodically every 15 — 20 minutes. Over time, they become more severe, prolonged, frequent and painful. The intervals between contractions will gradually decrease until they reach 3−4 minutes.
- Rupture of amniotic fluid. The rupture of amniotic fluid happens differently in every woman. It is a necessary stage of labor when amniotic bladder breaks and amniotic fluid pour out. This usually occurs in the late second stage of labor, but quite often, it happens ahead of time, before the start of labor.
Early signs of labor in first-time moms
Many of the symptoms, described above, are subjective. A first time mom with no experience of childbirth may get confused. Early signs of labor in first time moms are usually more gradual. They can begin two weeks before labor and therefore it’s hard to predict when the labor will actually start. It is important to know the difference between false and true contractions, as a woman, who is pregnant for the first time may easily confuse them. Early signs of childbirth in nulliparous are often unnoticed or include only 2−3 of the above symptoms.
Premonitory signs of labor in multiparous women
The cervix of women who already have children is wider and it has a quicker response to hormonal stimuli. Therefore, some signs of labor in multiparous are more pronounced and begin at earlier. The mucus plug in women, who already have children, is bigger and liquid discharge may be more intense. During the second pregnancy, practice contractions start earlier. This is because now a woman clearly differentiates them. For the second time, the birth process occurs rapidly. The time between early symptoms of labor and childbirth reduces. Sometimes the first signs of labor in multiparous appear a day or two before delivery. If you already have children, first symptoms can be interpreted as a signal to gather your handbags and be ready to go to the hospital.