Hey Everyone! So as many of you hopefully know I am very very pregnant! Today I am 38 weeks and 4 days!! This means that I am oh so close to giving birth! (Have you read about my decision to have a Natural Childbirth?) Regardless, this pregnancy seems to drag on and on and on!
I had my 38-week midwife appointment today and she said the baby has dropped, which explains why the top of my belly seems to be squishier than normal and the increased pain in my cervix! She said. however that the baby will probably not come until around 40 weeks! It is true that most babies come at the 40-week mark (that’s why it’s your DUE DATE) but I can’t believe I still have to wait 2 more weeks.
As soon as I got home I went straight for my Pregnancy Bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting to learn more about early labor signs! Every little pain or cramp that I have I think, MAYBEEEEE this is it! But so far, a big fat nothing.
Anyway, after reading through my favorite pregnancy book (once again) I decided to share with you some information on the early signs of labor! So without further adieu, here are all the labor signs you shouldn’t ignore!
Pre-Labor (1-4 weeks before labor)
- The Baby “Drops:” we have all probably heard a little something about the baby dropping. But what does that mean exactly? It means that the baby is fully engaged and has settled into its final position before birth! For first time mothers this can happen as soon as 4 weeks before birth, but for women with previous childbirth experience, it doesn’t usually happen until you are actually in labor! At this point you may feel a sense of lightning in your tummy, which can give you a little bit more room to breath, eat, and will hopefully relieve some of that heartburn (mine is still going strong, unfortunately!) You may also feel yourself waddling more as the baby is settled very low in your pelvis! You may also have more of those lightning pains in your cervix and an increased need to pee!
- Your Cervix Dilates: As your labor nears, your cervix will start to soften and ripen to prepare for labor. Your midwife or doctor may check how dilated you are in the final weeks of your pregnancy (Although mine does not!). Eating 6 dates a day starting a few weeks before can drastically help ripen your cervix to prepare for labor! (Read The Magic of Dates for more information)
- Increased back pain and more cramps: as your muscles and ligaments prepare for labor you will probably feel some pain in your lower back as well as some more cramps in your uterus and groin area. If you are feeling Braxton Hicks cramps you will probably start to feel a lot more around this time!
- Loose Bowel Movements: As all your muscles start to relax in preparation for labor so does your rectum! You may start to experience loose bowel movements as you get closer to labor. Which might be a relief if you have suffered from constipation and hemorrhoids throughout your pregnancy.
- Fatigue or a burst of energy: You may feel extra sleepy in the last few weeks of your pregnancy! All that work your body is doing to prepare for labor can be pretty exhausting! You may, however, be feeling the opposite as your nesting instinct kicks in and you feel a burst of energy! You may feel the urge to clean the house or make all your last-minute baby preparations. Whichever way you are feeling, make sure to take it easy and rest up as much as you can to prepare for your big day!
Early Labor (The hours before labor begins)
- Loss of the Mucous Plug: The Mucous plug is what seals off your cervix and keeps your baby safe inside your uterus, but as your cervix starts dilating the plug falls away. It can come out in one large chunk or can come out slowly. You may see an increase in mucous-y vaginal discharge that may even be spotted red or pink. This is called your bloody show and usually happens when you lose your mucous plug.
- Stronger more frequent contractions: You will start to feel more contractions that just don’t let up. “Fake” or “Braxton Hicks” contractions usually let up when you change position or move but these contractions do not! Instead, they keep feeling stronger, more frequent, and more painful!
- Your Water Breaks: One of the final signs of labor is your water breaking. When you feel your water break you should give birth within 24 hours to prevent infection. Your water breaking, however, generally doesn’t happen until you are already fully aware that you are in labor!
If you experience these signs before you are 37 weeks pregnant be sure to call your doctor immediately! You could be going into Pre-Term labor!
When to call?
Every midwife or doctor has different protocols, but generally, you should call when:
- You are experiencing contractions that last for 1 minute
- Contractions are about 3-5 Minutes Apart
- You experience this for about an hour
You should also always call your midwife if:
- Your water breaks and it looks green or brown. This is an indication that the baby has had its first bowel movement and can pose risks to both you and your baby!
I don’t know about you but I am DYING to get my labor started and meet my baby! I am experiencing some of these signs, but that could still mean that labor is a few weeks away! There are some ways to help induce labor naturally, that have actually been proven to work so I urge some of you to try them (myself included!)
**Update: Check out my birth story!!