Signs of Labor – signs and symptoms of labor

How do you know it’s time to give birth?

How do you know that it is time to give birth? There are several different signs that you should look out for to know when it is time to go to the hospital.

Birth is the end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new life. Here you will find a number of different signs to look out for to know that it is time to go to the hospital to give birth.

Due date and labor

It is easy to believe in and adapt to the due date calculated by the midwife or by the ultrasound. However, one should be aware that only 5% of all women give birth on that particular day. If you are expecting your first child, as many as 70% of first births happen after the estimated date of birth.

This is fully normal and there is no need to worry if your child is healthy. A child simply comes when they are ready to come out. The due date calculation is never an exact science and there are those who claim that the most accurate way to predict the due date is just to expect the birth to happen plus or minus two full weeks from the calculated date – a span of four weeks. 

Calculate your due date here.

Signs of labor 

Labor can go fast for some women, so it is important to be prepared to call your doctor/midwife/hospital when you recognize any of the signs or signals below.  All three of them can be an indication that labor is getting close. 

If you have a partner or friend that will support you during labor and the process of giving birth, they should be prepared too to go to the hospital at any time. If you haven´t already done so, prepare a list of numbers to call such as family and friends when it is time to go to the hospital and be sure your doctor’s number is always handy.

Below you will find three different signs that labor has started:

– The water breaks 

In movies, childbirth often starts with the water breaking, but in reality it is not even certain that it will break in the beginning. If the water breaks, you should always contact your care provider for advise!

Water breaks when the fetal membranes have broken and the amniotic fluid leaks out. In some cases it can slowly trickle out and in some cases it rushes out. When the water breaks it does not always mean that it is time to give birth. Sometimes natural labor won’t begin for hours or days after. 

If your water breaks and labor does not start, your doctor will probably want to start labor artificially within 24 hours. This is due to the increased risk of infection to the baby when the fetal membrane has broken. It does not hurt when the water breaks and it can sometimes be difficult to determine if it is water or if it is just a little urine that leaked out without you noticing. 

Before calling your medical provider you should check if the amniotic fluid is clear or discolored. The doctor or nurse will ask about this when you call, but if they do not and the water is discolored, it is important that you tell them. For example, if the water has a greenish color, this may mean that the baby has pooped inside the fluid. Normally this is not dangerous but the bacteria present in fecal matter can cause infection. Also, find out if the fetus is fixed in the cervix before you call. If it is not fixed, it can in rare cases be a question of umbilical cord prolapse. If there is a risk for this, it is important that the woman is transported lying down, preferably by ambulance.

– Labor starts 

Labor is a sign that the uterine muscles are softening before giving birth. Pre-labors can occur up to three weeks before it is time to give birth. Always consult your doctor if you feel any signs of labor, even if it is pre-labor. 

The labor you will experience when the time to give birth is near are typically stronger and more regular. Labor pain often feels like aches or cramps in the lower back and down towards the groin. In the beginning, these pains come only occasionally, but grow in frequency and strength over time. 

The benchmark to keep in mind is typically three contractions in ten minutes, with contractions lasting for about sixty seconds each. This is typically a sign that it is time to give birth. Call your medical provider when you think it is time to go to hospital.

– The mucus plug releases 

The reason why you have a mucous plug is to protect the child from bacteria that exists outside the womb. The mucous plug rests in the uterine mouth and is recognized as a whitish lump that comes out in either a whole piece or in several small pieces before labor. In some cases, it may also be slightly pinkish due to a tiny bit of blood. 

When the uterus slowly opens, the mucous plug slips out, which often happens when labor starts. Not everyone notices the plug leave the body – but keep an eye open! Even if it is not time, it is a sign that something is happening and that childbirth is getting close. 

Keep in mind that there are different types of labor so the woman may not even know their labor has started. Childbirth may still take several days after the mucus plug is released but don´t hesitate to call your doctor if you are worried. 

If you are experiencing bleeding it is always important that you immediately contact your doctor or the hospital and if the bleeding is severe you should immediately go to the hospital. Do not hesitate to call an ambulance if this happens and makes sure if you are bleeding that you remain in a flat position. 

What should you bring when giving birth

When it’s time to go to the hospital, you don´t have a lot of time. Don´t put yourself in the situation where you need to stress just because you haven´t prepared what to bring. Pack a bag in advance and bring it with you everywhere you go when the due date is nearing. If it is not packed, you may have to throw stuff together in the midst of labor pains and then there is a risk that you will miss something important. Here are some suggestions of what to bring with you when giving birth:

• Your ID

• Your birth plan

• Newspaper or book

• Comfortable, loose clothing

• Robe

• Nursing bra

• Toiletries / hair ties

• Large panties

• Slippers

• Clothes for the baby – Be sure to bring a few options in different sizes – You won’t know for sure what size your baby will wear until its born Don’t forget the hat!

• Camera / mobile phone / charger

• Insurance documents

• Debit/credit card

It’s also a good idea to bring something to eat or a snack. Fruit or candy might be good to raise blood sugar. It is impossible to say how long the delivery will take and you might need some extra energy.  

Thanks for reading this articles about signs of labor.

Mrs Stevens

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