Many women carrying a pregnancy for the first time want to know what labor is like and how they will know when it hits. This is a normal reaction because they would like to be prepared for what is to come. This is their first motherhood challenge, after all.
Labor is different for every woman and one woman can have different experiences for every pregnancy she carries. Most women come to the realization that they are in labor if someone points it out to them or after they are done giving birth and start remembering all that happened!
However, there are some signs that will give you an idea that things have changed and are progressing in that direction. In pre-labor you may experience the following:
- Persistent lower back or abdominal pain. It may feel like pre-menstrual cramps.
- Painful contractions that may be irregular in both strength and frequency. This feels like a tightening of the muscles around your tummy but it comes and goes.
- Loose bowels or an upset stomach.
- Your emotions could fly all over with restlessness, being moody, anxious, excited or impatient taking the crown.
- Disrupted sleep.
- Your waters may break. It can be a gush or a trickle of fluid, kind of like peeing your pants. Many start panicking when this happens but it could happen way before labor starts but just be sure to call your doctor and let them know just to be on the safe side.
- A mucus discharge tinged with blood (bloody show). This means your body is beginning to shed the mucus plug around your cervix. Labor may not be too long after this but could also come a few days later.
These symptoms may however overlap with those of labor so you may not be completely sure which stage of labor you are in. How you feel will depend on whether you’ve given birth before, how prepared you are for labor and how you perceive and respond to pain. It may be happening to you but you can steer it in a less painful direction if you are prepared.
Will I know if labor is about?
Some women like the element of surprise but others like to have a possible schedule of when labor will come or at least what to look out for. Signs that you’ll get into labor soon include:
- Heavier vaginal discharge. It should have more mucus and not more blood.
- Braxton Hicks contractions may increase in frequency and intensity.
- Your baby moves lower into your pelvis. You’ll notice that the bulge will have moved lower, you’ll be able to eat and drink more and take deeper breaths. You’ll however have to pee a little more often and your walk officially becomes a waddle.
- Mood swings.
- You will suddenly want to clean or put things in order in your home!
What to do in early labor
Early labor is when you dilate to 4cm. You will need to relax and keep calm so as to help handle the contractions. Relaxing will also aid in the release of oxytocin, a hormone required for labor to progress. Depending on the time of day you can go for a walk, watch a movie you like, ask your spouse or anyone else to keep you company or just doing some light duties around the house. A warm bath or shower can help ease the aches and pains. It is wise to rest right now in preparation for the work ahead. Also, eat small portions of high-energy foods whenever you can because it may be difficult to eat as labor progresses and you will need the energy.
This is when you move from 4cm to 10cm. Contractions may become more frequent, stronger and longer. You can hardly talk through these and inhibition flies out the window with each passing second. If having your baby in hospital, call your doctor and do what they tell you. Most of all trust your instincts because you may feel a strong urge to head to hospital yet the doctor said to wait.
Time your contractions and if they come at regular intervals, are longer and the time between them reduces it may be time to leave. Keep calm and leave your energy reserves for the pushing!