When the third trimester hits, the nervousness and anticipation of childbirth and your little one in your arms also kick in. By now, you must be ready with your hospital bag packed and the shopping for the arrival of your little one. Now is also the right time to know about the early signs of labor and be prepared. Before we understand the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away, let us understand labor.
What Is Labor?
Labor is the complete process of childbirth. Labor starts with the contraction of the uterus, which is the main reason for expecting moms to begin feeling the pain. So, pain is usually the most prominent sign of labor. Then comes the cervical dilation stage, which ends with the baby's delivery. By this time, you should be ready with your hospital bag and ready to rush to the hospital for childbirth.
Signs Of Active Labor Approaching
Ideally, you would not go into labor without pre-labor symptoms. However, there are certain signs of labor approaching. The following are approaching labor signs.
• Strong, frequent contractions- When labor is approaching, the muscles of your uterus will start to tighten up. This contraction of the uterus is meant to help you push your baby out. The contractions will become stronger, and the time between each contraction will decrease as childbirth approaches. If you're unsure whether these are signs of going into labor, ask yourself these questions:
• Are the contractions evenly spaced?
• How long do the contractions last?
• Are the contractions strong?
If your contractions are strong, lasting between 30 – 70 seconds, and are 5 – 10 minutes apart, this indicates active labor symptoms, and you are about to deliver.
• Bloody show – If you have brownish or reddish mucus discharge, your mucus plug is out, and you are in labor. This is known as a blood show.
• Belly and lower back pain – Back pains are common during pregnancy but usually go away if you lie down or change positions. If you experience back and belly pain that does not go away even if you take rest or change positions, that is a sign that active labor has kicked in.
• Water breaking – Well, that's the ultimate sign labor has started. Your baby floats in a sack full of amniotic fluid inside your womb. You will feel a big rush of water flowing out of your vagina when the water breaks.
Early Signs & Symptoms Before Labor Begins / Pre-Labor Symptoms
Also known as pre labor symptoms, there are certain labor pains symptoms you might experience that indicate that labor is near but hasn't begun yet. Here are those signs.
• Baby drops – Suddenly, you will feel a lot less pressure on your lungs, and you will be able to breathe better. On the contrary, the pressure on your bladder and lower back will increase, and you will pee more frequently. This is because the baby takes its position for vaginal birth. This is known as 'Baby Drop.'
• Cervical dilation – It might not be easy to realize if this happens. Still, during your weekly check-ups in the final weeks of your third trimester, your doctor will check for cervical dilation, which is one of the signs of impending labor.
• Cramps and increased back pain – Back pain starts around the second trimester and lasts through the pregnancy. But as your labor could be near, the cramps and back pain would peak, and you might constantly feel uncomfortable, no matter how comfortably you sit or lie down.
• Loosening of joints – To prepare the body for childbirth, your body releases a hormone called relaxin a few days before labor. This hormone is responsible for loosening your joints and ligaments to prepare for delivery.
• Diarrhoea – The relaxin also loosens up the rectum muscles, thus leading to pre-labor diarrhea.
• Weight loss – Your body will start losing excess water towards the end of your third trimester due to diarrhea and frequent urination. This would result in losing up to a KG or two due to bodily water loss.
Fatigue and the nesting instinct – A day or two before the labor would begin, your fatigue level would be at its peak. You will also naturally feel the instinct to clean and prepare the house and keep everything perfect for your baby's arrival. This is called 'Nesting.'
How Can I Tell True Labor Signs and False Alarm Apart?
Sometimes what you might assume to be early labor signs or signs of labor at 37 weeks or earlier can be just Braxton hicks contractions. They feel just like labor but are a false alarm. On the other hand, some women experience frequent Braxton hicks contractions in the final weeks before actual labor starts. Here is how you can tell the two apart.
If you have had a false labor, it is the right time to start doing exercises to have a vaginal delivery, as these exercises will help you create a flexible body for childbirth. And if you are past 40 weeks and there is no sign of labor, you can also try some safe exercises to induce labor.
What is preterm labor?
For a singleton pregnancy, almost 90% of pregnancies reach the 37th week of pregnancy and experience labor signs at 37 weeks or later. However, some expecting moms often experience early contractions and go into labor before the 37th week. This is known as preterm labor. Immediately call or visit your gynecologist if you experience any signs and symptoms mentioned in the article before the 37th week.
Labor pains and childbirth might sound a bit scary to a few, but your body has been preparing for it for the last nine months. So, it is time to relax, be stress-free, and bring a new life into this world. You got it, mamma!