How will I know when I’m in
to efface significantly or dilate as you get close to labor. This is the plug that has sealed your cervix canal during the last nine months. It can appear as discharge or in a lump. It might have pink, red, or brown blood. Your water breaks. When the fluid filled amniotic sac surrounding the baby ruptures, fluid leaks out from your vagina and this is the time to call the doctor. Most women have regular contractions prior to the water breaking (but sometimes the water breaks first).
In pre-labor or early labor (the latent phase), you may have: Every woman’s labor is different, so pinpointing when yours begins isn’t really possible. However, some specific changes take place in pre-labor, early labor and established (active) labor. Your body actually starts preparing for labor up to a month before you give birth. You may not recognize the changes at first, but there comes a time that you become aware of these new symptoms as your due date draws near. In the weeks and days before labor starts, your baby ‘drops’ – you may feel what’s known as ‘lightening’ a few weeks before labor starts. You breathe easier because the heaviness has shifted to your pelvis as opposed to just below your ribcage. You will have frequent and intense Braxton Hicks contractions signaling pre-labor. Your cervix ripens and you’re set for real labor. Some feel crampy (similar to when you had your period). Those Braxton Hicks contractions are tricky and can strike as often as every ten to twenty minutes. You wonder if you’re in real labor…but real labor contractions are most often longer, stronger, closer together, and cause your cervix to dilate. Your cervix starts to change – it softens and thins out. As your due date draws near, your doctor will do an exam checking to see if your cervix has started to change. You may pass your mucus plug if your cervix begins
66 | Oh BABY!
• Persistent lower back pain or abdominal pain, with a premenstrual feeling and cramps. • Painful contractions that occur at regular and increasingly shorter intervals, and become longer and stronger in intensity. • Broken water. Your membranes may rupture with a gush or a trickle of amniotic fluid. Either way, call your maternity unit to let them know. • A brownish or blood-tinged mucus discharge (bloody show). If you pass the mucus plug that blocks the cervix, labor could be imminent, or it could be several days away. It’s a sign that things are moving along. • An upset tummy or loose bowels. • A period of feeling very emotional or moody. • Disrupted sleep.
How you will feel in the pre-labor or early labor phases depends on: • Whether you’ve had a baby before. • How you perceive and respond to pain. • How prepared you are for what going into labor may be like.
When should I call my doctor? You have probably talked to your doctor about what to do when you think you’re in active labor. But if you’re not sure whether or not the time has come, don’t be embarrassed to call. Doctors are used to getting calls from women who are uncertain if they’re in early labor or active