Labour – the thing most first time Mums dread the most.
But the thing is – whether this is your first baby or fifth – the very first signs of labour are not always easy to distinguish – especially when you are close to your due date. Here are some usual, quirky and odd signs – you may be just close to having your newborn in your arms.
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1. Your Braxton Hicks Are Evenly Spread
Braxton Hicks are those annoying ways your baby prepares you for the real deal of labour. You know you are having Braxton Hicks when your stomach area will go very very tight – a contraction. The thing is – in early labour – your body is doing exactly the same thing!
Many a mother (first time or not) have had a ‘false start’ because of these annoying bad boys. The best way to tell is to have a nice bath or go for a walk and time them. Real labour won’t go away and will be regular. Braxton Hicks will fade down and stop after a while.
Nifty Tip: Grab a clock and start timing them to see if you can spot a pattern!
More Reading: Braxton Hicks Contractions Vs Real Contractions
2. You Have Period Type Cramps
Not everyone feels or even have Braxton Hicks (that they are aware of). But early labour usually starts out very very slow… Late pregnancy, you hurt all over anyway from being just plain ole uncomfortable – so you might not even realise that you have started getting the odd cramp because they blend in with the ache of everything else. But period style cramps are usually how labour begins… ever so slowly. So be aware of them, and time them if they start getting stronger.
Real Story: Leticia
“I was 38 weeks pregnant and so achey all over. I had to go to the shops with Mum to buy a few things to make sure the house was fully stocked and wasn’t game to leave the house without having someone with me. I’d been having cramps sporadically for days… and didn’t give them a second thought because just everything hurt.
When I got to Coles, I actually had to ‘stop’ when some of these cramps hit me – I STILL didn’t realise I was in early labour… Not until about six hours later and I started thinking about timing them – and they were five minutes apart!!! Two hours later, my son was born! “
3. You Are Very Uncomfortable the Night Before
Many women (myself included) just couldn’t rest the night before labour – right when you need that rest – no fair!!! Late pregnancy is uncomfortable in itself, but when you feel yourself being unusually restless, your legs won’t stop moving, and you just can’t find a comfortable position – this is a good sign labour isn’t far away!
Tip: Even if you can’t sleep or get comfortable, try and rest as much as you can!
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4. Your Vagina is Puffy
If you have ever witnessed a birth (or seen a Youtube video) – you will notice that the vagina certainly doesn’t normally quite look that puffy normally. Your labia can really ‘swell’ during the late stages of pregnancy and with the baby moving further down and into the birthing position, it also puts a lot more pressure on your precious girly bits making them feel big and swollen.
If they are giving you a bit of trouble, grab a bag of peas and wrap them in a clean cloth that you will never use again and apply it to the area for a bit of relief.
Tip: Now this isn’t for everyone, but take a photo of your pubic area every few days in the lead up to your due date and check for puffiness – just make sure you put the images in a private folder so no one but you sees them! Because it’s hard to actually see the puffiness when you are so heavily pregnant.
5. You Feel Like You Need to Poo or Have Diarrhoea
Our bodies naturally try and get rid of anything in our bowel just before labour. Plus by emptying our bowel, it makes more room for the baby to move. Oh don’t worry – you will still probably shit yourself during labour – but I can assure you – you can’t give a single care at the time and the nurses know and will discreetly clean it up before you’ve even noticed it.
Warning! Warning! Warning!
Whatever you do – no matter how worried you are about pooing during birth, do not take anything to make yourself go to the toilet before labour… Going to the toilet during labour and pooing whilst you are pushing your baby out is perfectly natural, but full on spraying diarrhoea is just nasty on the poor nurses!
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6. Mucus Plug or ‘Show’
The Mucus Plug is the ‘wine bottle cork’ of the cervix. If you all of a sudden see a mass of snot-like bloody mess in your undies, this is the mucus plug. It signals that your body is ready to give birth soon – usually in the next three days. Of course, not everyone has this happen to them – everyone is different.
But keep an eye out! Always let your midwife know if you have any blood in your undies during late labour – and perhaps even save any ‘show’ that you do have to show the midwife – she can assess whether it is just the plug or you are bleeding.
And if you are wondering – this is what a mucus plug looks like!
Image via Practical Parenting
7. You Have Lower Back Pain
If you can feel a dull ache in the small of your back – this is also a good sign labour is close. Some of us ladies feel a lot of the labour pains in our backs. Grab a hot pack and apply it. Lie down and rest and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, start to take note of any regular Braxton Hicks or regular pain.
The lower back pain is usually caused by the baby getting into the birthing position – and it can be quite painful. Plus, some women just feel the pain in their backs as opposed to their abdomen.
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8. You Have An Urgent Need to Nest
The day before I had my son – I just HAD to paint a wall. Just absolutely – positively HAD to. So there is me, nine months pregnant and big as a house up a ladder, making sure that wall was absolutely perfect. Most women go into the full on nesting mode just before. You get a surge of energy to make sure the house is clean, the clothes are ready, the floors are vacuumed etc.
You won’t be able to sit down – the urge to get shit done will be way too strong.
9. You Can No Longer Make it to the Toilet for a Wee
Losing bladder control is totally normal for a heavily pregnant woman. But when it gets to the stage that the urge to wee and making it the toilet do not align (i.e. you wee yourself on the way to the toilet), this is a good sign labour is imminent. See, most of the time, the cause of this is that the baby’s head has moved right down into the lower pelvis, pushing on your bladder. With all systems go, the bladder just can’t hold itself.
Also whilst you are in the loo, check out your vaginal discharge. If it appears slightly pink, this could also be a good sign you are in the very early stages of labour.
10. Your Waters Break
Your waters can break in a great big ‘snap’ like you see in the movies (seriously!) or they could break quietly and the baby is holding back the flow. So if you feel a constant dampness in your undies that you don’t think is wee, this could be a sign your waters have broken. Whether you have started to go into labour or feel any pain or not, go get it checked out. If your waters break and it takes a few days for the baby to come, there is a great chance you or your baby can get an infection. So go see your doctor.
Just to be gross – do the sniff test. Wee smells like wee. Amniotic fluid kinda smells like a wet chook.
11. Your Cervix is Dilating
Not for the faint hearted, but I have heard of ladies (that after washing their hands well) could actually feel the cervix dilating. Best leave this one for the doctor.
12. Constant Shivering or Trembling
A change in the hormones from our brain telling our body to go into labour can cause a woman’s body to ‘shiver’ or ‘tremble’. It is fairly rare though – and always get checked out by your quack just in case.
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So, what do I do now?
Whilst you are waiting for more signs, this is a great time to make sure you:
- Call your doctor or midwife and let them know what is happening, they will probably tell you to stay home for now. Usually they make you wait at home until your contractions are five minutes apart or they are painful enough to take your breath away.
- Make sure your maternity bag is packed and at the door.
- Ring your partner and your Mum to let them know – plus it’s always nice to have someone with you.
- Have a nice warm (not hot) bath, wash your hair, get into some comfy pj’s or your maternity gown.
- Have a nice cup of tea and put your feet up and rest – you have some hard work in front of you!