Signs Of Labour - All You Need To Know

It’s important to be able to identify the varying signs of labour because as you get towards the end of your pregnancy you just don’t know when things are going to kick off.

You might go into labour a bit early, so if you can identify that this is what is happening early on, then you can still be prepared, at least mentally.

As with everything, signs of labour vary from one woman to the next, but by being aware of each possible thing you are less likely to be unsure if your labour is really starting or not.

Of course, for some women, labour happens so fast that they don’t really have time to analyse the different signs of labour and don’t get a chance to be prepared mentally for it, but these are in the minority, and for most of us things start off slowly, allowing us time to wonder, ‘is this it?’

The following symptoms aren’t always signs of labour starting, but they do usually mean that labour is imminent (within the next few days) even if it isn’t starting yet. So what can you look out for?

1. Niggling lower back ache – for some, labour pains feel more like intense back pain than tummy pains throughout their labour.

2. Tummy cramps like you get for a period – these will get more intense until they become contractions.

3. Mild contractions - lower tummy cramps, reaching a pinnacle and then dropping off. Contractions can come and go for a few days before you go into labour, but once they are about 45 seconds to a minute long they aren’t likely to go away.

4. The mucus plug coming away from the cervix – usually with a bit of a pinky colour from a tiny amount of blood in it or a few streaks of blood. This is also called a ‘show’. It can take a couple of weeks after a show for you to go into labour, for me it was a few days, and for some it is a matter of hours.

5. Your waters breaking – either a gush or a trickle of water leaking out of the vagina. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby leaking out. Once this has happened you should contact your midwife. If you do not go into labour after a certain amount of time then you will need to be induced. This is because without the protection of the amniotic fluid there is a risk of infection for your baby.

6. Some women find their bowel loosens up a few hours before labour begins and they may even have diarrhoea.

Pre-Labour Signs

Other signs that baby could be on its way in the next few weeks are:

1. The baby moving down and it’s head becoming engaged in your pelvis – this can relieve breathlessness and make you feel more comfortable as the baby isn’t so squashed up by your vital organs.

2. Increased pressure on your pelvis and back passage causing aches and pains, making you need to go to the toilet more often and making you feel the need to sit down and rest more.

3. The nesting instinct – for a couple of weeks before I went into labour I found I wanted to get things done around the house, like cleaning out the fridge, vacuuming under cushions and sofas. Just be careful about putting strain on your back though, I found after I’d done a spring-cleaning chore my back was very sore.

4. Braxton Hicks – tightening of your womb causes these and you can experience them throughout your pregnancy, but towards the end they may get stronger and more uncomfortable.

Cervical Sweep

Some midwives, if you go past your due date, will give you a cervical sweep. They use their finger to sweep around the cervix. They can tell you whether it feels soft which would mean it is prepared for labour or if it is still hard, which would mean you still have a way to go.

If the cervix is well prepared for labour, doing the sweep can help to start labour off. Many women find that their labour starts a day or so after having a cervical sweep. Others have several sweeps that don’t have any effect.

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