Childbirth is a beautiful yet different experience for every female, whether she is a first-time mom or has had babies before. Sometimes, the baby arrives really fast and easily. Other times, it may not happen so fast. How quickly the baby arrives depends on various things, including how fast the labor is happening.
Labor includes a series of intense, repeated muscle contractions and is accompanied by various other symptoms. The “contractions” help in pushing the baby out of the womb (uterus) into the birth canal (vaginal canal).
The female is likely to feel the labor contractions in her lower back and belly area. This is known as labor pains. The contractions help to dilate (widen) the cervix (opening to the vagina), which allows the baby to move out of the body and be born.
Females who are pregnant for the first are usually in labor for around 12 to 18 hours, on average. If she has had a baby before, the labor usually goes more quickly.
Read ahead to learn about the common signs and symptoms that labor is approaching (which means, your baby is arriving soon).
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1. The baby drops
For first-time moms, the baby will typically start to drop (descend into the pelvis, a few weeks before the labor actually begins. This usually happens around 2 to 4 weeks before the labor begins. This is a very early sign of labor. Due to this, the female may have more frequent bathroom visits due to the increased pressure on the bladder.
Contractions in pregnancy can be described as a feeling of striking, tightening, or stabbing similar to period cramps. Pregnancy contractions may increase in strength and frequency as the labor approaches.
A female may also have irregular contractions or false labor known as Braxton-Hicks contractions towards the end of the pregnancy in the 3rd trimester. Braxton-Hicks contractions are usually milder and irregular contractions and they do not occur at regular intervals, like contractions occurring before labor. When contractions occur less than 10 minutes apart, it signals the onset of true labor
3. The cervix dilates
Just before the labor begins, the cervix starts to prepare for the birth of the baby. The cervix starts to open up (dilate) days or weeks before the delivery of the baby. At the OB-GYN check-ups of the pregnancy, the doctor may measure and keep a track of dilation and thinning of the cervix through an internal exam.
4. Thinning of the cervix
In addition to dilation, effacement (thinning) of the cervix also occurs before labor. The cervix begins to thin weeks prior to the labor as the thinned cervix dilates more quickly and easily. Thinning of the cervix is also an early sign of the labor which is detected by the OB-GYN during prenatal appointments in the third trimester.
Females often describe pelvic pain and pressure as feeling like a strong urge to poop (have a bowel movement). Some females also experience diarrhea or loose motions (loose bowel movements) a few days before labor.
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6. Back pain
Many females report on having dull pain in the lower back that comes and goes, in the last days of pregnancy, just when the labor approaches. This back pain may accompany contractions that may be felt in other parts of the body. Females also notice a loosening of the joints, especially in the pelvic area, as the 3rd trimester progresses, in preparation for delivery.
7. Feeling “looser” joints
Throughout the pregnancy, the hormone relaxin makes the female’s ligaments to loosen up a little. Before a female goes into the actual labor, she may notice that her joints all over her body feel a bit less tight and are now more relaxed. It is just the pregnant body’s way of opening up the female’s pelvis for the baby to pass through.
8. Feeling a burst of energy
Opposite to feeling extra tired during pregnancy, many females describe feeling a sudden burst of excitement and energy in the weeks prior to the labor. This impulse is often referred to as nesting and is often accompanied by a sense of urgency to get things done or feeling impatient. This is a major psychological sign that your labor is approaching.
9. Your water breaks
Rupturing of the amniotic membranes, or “water breaking,” is usually a sign that the labor has begun. Despite how water breaking is often portrayed in movies, it is typically not a sudden gush of fluid but is rather slower dripping or trickle fluid. Amniotic fluid is colorless and odorless. It can at times be hard to distinguish from urine, but amniotic fluid does not have any odor. If you feel your water broke, it is essential to contact your doctor right away.
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What to do when you are in labor?
If the contractions are mild to moderate and are coming more than 5 minutes apart ( up to 20 minutes apart), you are likely in early labor. Contractions in the stage of early labor can be regular or irregular and last 30 – 45 seconds each. Early labor can last anywhere from several hours or even several days.
Once the contractions start coming more frequently, are more consistent, are more painful, and longer in duration, call your doctor right away. If you are not sure if you’re in labor but think you might be, discuss it with your doctor to make sure what you should do next.
Also consult an expert OB-GYN if your water breaks, you experience vaginal bleeding or bright red discharge, or if you experience blurred vision, a severe headache or sudden swelling in the last trimester.
So, it is really important here that you notify your doctor about symptoms of labor you are experiencing. Let your doctor know your symptoms like loose joints, contractions, diarrhea, or leaking amniotic fluid to know what to do next.