There are cardinal signs that labor is in the beginning or early stages, although all signs are unique to each woman. We all have different birth stories, and it can be hard to know when the exact time is beginning.
Here are some signs that labor may be beginning:
- loss of mucous plug (this can range in color/consistency for each woman, some lose their plug more than once in pregnancy and some do not lose it until they are in active or transitional labor... but it generally looks like "bloody snot" and varies in size and color)
- rupture of waters (another highly variable sign) Some women may experience "trickle" which can be confused with urine leakage, vaginal discharge, or other moisture. It's not always like in the movies where it appears the woman gushes a lot of fluid. Waters are usually straw colored and have no scent. Waters can also be stained with "meconium", which is a sign that baby may have taken a bowel movement. Waters can also be a greenish color or blood stained. If your water has broken, chances are you should make your way to the labor and delivery unit to be checked.
- contractions: this can mean several things, but you probably already know a little bit about Braxton-Hicks contractions if you're in the later stages of pregnancy. True labor-style contractions are felt across the abdomen and in the back and have a distinct pattern. If you are early in pregnancy, they may feel like tightening. We will discuss in our appointments about when it is best to call your doula or obtain medical attention.
- loose bowels: yup, your body will try and clean itself out before labor!
- nausea: can also be accompanied by vomiting.
- nesting: an intense feeling that you need to wash/fold babies close, scrub floors, or any other last minute items. But this happens in late pregnancy as your time to prepare becomes less and less.
- dilation/effacement: we all know the 10cm rule, but did you know you can be dilated and not be in labor? We will discuss these in our consultations.
- lightening: baby dropping lower into the pelvis. That tight feeling and shortness of breath may mysteriously go away, and people may start telling you how much they notice you've "dropped" or how "low you are carrying". But, not always. This is usually accompanied by more discomfort in the pelvis.
If you experience these signs, talk to your physician, midwife, and doula.
Want a good contraction timer? Check out http://www.contractionmaster.com/
Read more of Rhonda's work on her blog: http://birthingutopia.blogspot.com