As the end of pregnancy approaches, there is a lot happening in the pregnant mind & body. There are feelings of excitement and anticipation all while your body is physically preparing to birth this new life. In the movies, we usually see a scene where the pregnant person’s water breaks, they rush to the hospital, we hear intense yelling and screaming, and shortly thereafter a baby is born. This is rarely how things actually play out in real life. When expectant parents know the real signs that labor is near, they can be better prepared mentally and physically for when it happens.
What is Labor?
When referring to childbirth, labor is the process of the cervix thinning and opening wide enough for the baby to pass through. During this time, the uterus contracts, pulling the cervix up and pushing the baby down, and applying pressure to further help the cervix open. The length and intensity of labor can vary greatly from one person to another. For some women, the process begins to happen without them feeling anything at all. Others experience a very abrupt and obvious start to labor.
5 Signs That Labor Has Started
It is exciting to think about the baby arriving soon. While there is a great deal of variation in what the start of labor looks like, there are still a number of tried and true signs that can help parents know when labor is imminent…
1. Your water breaks!
While labor doesn’t always start right when the waters break, but for most women contractions/surges will begin in less than 24 hours from this event. Also, it’s not always obvious when your waters break. You might think that it is due to incontinence, but you can easily check by smelling the fluid. It should have a strong astringent odor. Make sure to observe the fluid and to see what color it is. If it is clear, then you can wait for another sign of labor. If it is green or brown it usually means that there is meconium present; the baby’s first bowel movement happened in utero. This would mean that you need to call your doctor or midwife and begin packing your hospital bag or be prepared to have your midwife come over to check on you and the baby.
2. You passed your mucus plug/membranes released.
In some cases, this happens early on in labor or even before labor starts. It has a thick jelly consistency and could be either clear, brown, or red. You can simply wait for another sign of labor to start!
3. You feel a sudden surge of energy!
Towards the end of pregnancy, and right before labor begins, many people report feeling a noticeable increase in energy. They suddenly feel like doing a little bit more exercise or putting together the finishing touches on the nursery.
4. You have a desire to nest.
Sometimes pregnant people report feeling the need to make their home environment safe and comfortable. This could mean setting up the nursery for the baby, putting together your hospital bag, or installing a car seat. Essentially, you might feel this strong, innate desire to get everything ready for the baby and to stay close to home.
5. Surges/Contractions come in a pattern and get stronger, longer, and closer together.
Pre-labor surges are often far apart, without any real pattern, and typically stop with a change of activity. However, when they start happening consistently, this might be early labor. True labor surges will get stronger, longer, and closer together over time. When you begin to feel consistent waves/contractions that last anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute in length and about 3-5 minutes apart, you are likely in active labor. Many people use a contraction app in order to keep track of how frequently contractions are coming. This is very helpful as your care provider might ask you the frequency and duration of your contractions.