FIRST TIME MUMS GUIDE TO the ONSET OF labour - THE SIGNS and what to look out for
What are the common signs of labour?
Labour pains are the mostly commonly known sign of labour. Understanding what they are may help you understand why they feel the way they do. Labour pains are caused by the muscles of the uterus tightening (contracting) and then relaxing in a rhythm designed to drive the baby through the birth canal to the outside world. At a certain point voluntary pushing from mum aids this process.
What do labour pains feel like?
Many women describe labour pains or contractions as a ‘period like’ pelvic pain that comes and goes lasting longer and getting closer in between. The Braxton Hicks (painless practice contractions) women experience in the last few weeks of pregnancy may become more uncomfortable.
What other signs are there that labour is getting close?
Some women experience a ‘show’ which is the release of a clear or bloodstained mucus plug from the vagina. The release if this plug which was the previously sitting inside the cervix during pregnancy to protect the baby, may be the first sign of pending labour and birth.
When will my waters break?
The waters breaking or the rupture of ‘membranes’ is when the amniotic scan surrounding the fetus break releasing fluid into the vagina. Your waters may break at any time before during labour and in some cases don’t break until birth and the baby is born with them intact. This is called ‘born the caul’ and is not harmful to the baby. The water breaking could be a gush or a trickle and is normally straw in colour and non-offensive to smell. All suspected rupture of membranes should be reported to your maternity care team.
What are other signs to look out for?
The more discrete signs of labour onset include feeling a little bit unusual or that things are somehow different. Diarrhoea or more frequent bowel actions are another pre- labour sign along with unusual lower back pain or dragging thigh pain. You may also vomit out of context.
Couldn’t these things be something other than labour?
Yes. That’s why it’s best to get checked if you’re concerned.
Does baby move less before labour?
No. It’s a myth that babies move less prior to labour. Baby movements should continue right up until and during labour and an active baby is a sign of wellbeing, so any change or concern about fetal movements should be reported and investigated straight away.
When do I call the hospital?
If pains begin or your waters break. Also, if there are other signs mentioned above or if you have any other concerns particularly about change or slowing of baby movements.
TAKE HOME: The beginning of labour is not always obvious, and every woman is different.