By the end of 40 weeks, most women are more than ready to deliver. Pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable at this point; there isn't much you can do to alleviate discomforts and you are anxious to hold your baby in your arms. The following steps will help you recognize pre-labor signs. These signs may show up just weeks, days or hours before you go into labor.
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Watch for obvious signs of lightening or dropping. Lightening is when the baby descends deeper into your pelvis and you may feel that you can breathe better. In a first-time mother, this may happen two to four weeks before labor begins. In a woman who has given birth before, lightening may not be as evident as with the first pregnancy or may not happen until you are in active labor.
Be aware of a persistent lower backache. A small percentage of women feel the contractions in their back before their belly. The backache can be a lingering and constant uncomfortable feeling, or it may come in waves just like typical contractions. If it feels heavier than normal or much more uncomfortable than it usually does, it may be worth paying close attention to.
Notice your bowel patterns. You may have loose bowels. Your body has a natural ability to cleanse itself before the baby comes. You may experience a few bouts of loose bowels the day that contractions actually start or a few days before.
Look for increased discharge. You may see increased vaginal discharge as labor approaches. As labor gets closer and the baby drops lower into the pelvis, an increase in vaginal mucus is normal. It is usually clear or has an egg white consistency, and may have a slight pink tinge.
Consider your contractions. You may experience an increase in Braxton-Hicks contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions are usually painless contractions that are felt as a temporary tightening in the abdomen. However, as you get closer to your due date, you may have an increase in Braxton-Hicks contractions, and some may be quite painful. They may occur more frequently, too. Braxton-Hicks contractions can continue for a few hours or days. They are often called "false" contractions, but they are indeed making some changes in your body in preparation for the real event.
Watch for a bloody show. As the baby gets lower into your uterus and presses on your cervix, it may cause it to dilate and efface. When this happens, your mucous plug begins to loosen up and starts coming out. You may see some blood as it comes out, which is due to the cervical changes.
Look for leaking fluid. Your bag of water may rupture when labor is near. Sometimes this happens as a slow leak, and other times it happens all at once. Either way, if you think you have ruptured membranes you should consult your healthcare provider. If you aren't in labor when membranes rupture or shortly after, your doctor may want to do an induction for safety concerns.
Tips and warnings
- If your bag of water ruptures, always take note of the time, color and odor. The fluid should be clear and odorless. If your water is discolored, especially dark green, seek medical attention, as the baby may have had a bowel movement in utero.
- Seeing one of these signs may not indicate that labor is near, but a few signs together may indicate it is approaching.
- If you have any of these symptoms before the 37th week of pregnancy, consult with your healthcare provider immediately.
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