Some people say you ‘just know’ when you're in labour. I'm not convinced that's true for early labour since some of the signs are quite subtle and can happen for days or even weeks before labour begins. Here are 5 signs that your labour might be very close:
1. Your waters break
We’ve all seen films and TV shows where a pregnant woman’s waters break with a pop and a gush and then she immediately goes into labour, right? Well, this might happen, but equally your waters might not break until your labour is quite advanced. Some waters gush and some trickle, leaving you wondering if you just wet yourself. It's quite rare, but sometimes babies are born with the amniotic sac intact. Also, sometimes a woman's waters break and then nothing happens immediately, although the vast majority of women will go into spontaneous labour within 48 hours.
2. Surges or contractions start
At some point your body will start surging or contracting, but to start with it can be quite subtle, kind of like mild period cramps or discomfort in the lower back. Some women experience cramping for a few days or weeks before going into labour, which can be really flipping annoying as you keep wondering, "Is this it?".
3. You lose your mucus plug
My mucus what?! The mucus plug sits at your cervix to prevent infection. As your cervix softens to prepare for labour the plug loosens and comes away. It can look like a clear, jelly-like discharge or it can be tinged with brownish blood, which is why it's sometimes called a bloody show. Again, this can happen days before you go into labour.
4. Diarrhoea or vomiting
I know! But this is a good sign, as the hormones that relax your cervix can also loosen your bowels. Having 'a good clear out' also makes way for baby. It’s thought that some women vomit because the body is focused on preparing for birth so doesn't have the energy to digest food.
5. Taking nesting to a new level
Feel the urge to repaint the living room at 3am when you're 39 weeks pregnant? Stop! Put the paintbrush down and step away. Frenetic busts of activity such as a need to scrub the skirting boards or remove every scrap of dust from behind the radiators could mean you will soon be going into labour. It's your nesting instinct stepping in, which causes us to want to prepare a safe environment for baby. Whilst starting a new DIY project might not be the best idea, by all means continue to scrub the skirting boards as being on all fours is a great position for labour.
So there you have it. Detecting whether or not you are in early labour can be tricky and frustrating. Bear in mind that all women experience labour differently - it might only be when you look back on your labour that you can pinpoint when it started.
I'm Liz Dew, founder of SheffieldHypnobirthing.com and I love a good chat about birth. This blog is where I explore some of the things that I find amazing, frustrating, or fascinating about birth and birth culture. Grab a cuppa and dive in.