How do I know if I am in labor?
Most babies are not particularly punctual. In fact, only one in twenty of them make an appearance on their due date. You’ve very probably blocked your baby’s Due Date in your calendar, adding some cute emoticons to herald the new arrival and started monitoring your body with seismic precision. Well, keep a tab on your high hopes, avoid the countdowns and know what to expect: the onset of labor is nothing like the movies. There will very probably be no gush of water in front of an expectant audience followed by an immediate urge to push your baby out, and all in a total of thirty seconds. Expecting labor, like parenthood in general, involves a whole lot of waiting as well as a good amount of surprises. Here’s what to look out for:
The Mucus Plug
For those with an active imagination, it’s easy to depict the scene. The mucus plug is as visually unappealing as its name suggests but a sweet sign indeed if you’re completely fed up of being unable to have as much as a glimpse of your own two feet. The mucus plug looks like vaginal discharge but can be tinged pink, brown or be slightly bloody. Because of this, it’s also called ‘bloody show’ and it basically means that the plug holding your cervix closed has released. Losing your mucus plug means that your cervix has begun to dilate in preparation for labor. Unfortunately, it does not mean that labor is imminent but it does send a signal that the messy part is getting close.
You know what’s strange? Your waters can break without you even noticing. So yes, a strong gush of water equivalent to a need for Noah’s ark second-coming is only optional. Your baby has been nestled in amniotic fluid for nine months and the sac that holds it may break naturally before or during labor or after the baby is born. There have been instances where babies arrived earth side in an intact amniotic sac. In many instances, it is the midwife or obstetrician who breaks the water. If you have any concerns that you might be leaking amniotic fluid or that your waters have broken, speak to your healthcare practitioner immediately.
Greater need to use the toilet
If the last days before the due date are seeing you running to the bathroom, this can also be a sign that labor is close. Early labor and diarrhea can sometimes go hand in hand. So take those trips positively; they might mean that you’ll soon be holding your little bundle.
New found energy
You’ve felt tired and energy-less for weeks and suddenly you cleaned the whole house, prepared food for a whole month, sorted and resorted the nursery and discovered a new love for dance moves featuring The Bump. Rejoice, the birth day may be near! Many expectant mothers report an energy burst before labor. The only downside is that this can happen as early as a month before the birth so it is not a fool proof indication of imminent labor.
Not all contractions are an indication of the start of labor. False contractions, known as Braxton Hicks, are your body’s way of training for the marathon that is birth. You may feel your baby bump going rock hard at irregular intervals without the tightening getting closer over time. Unlike real contractions, Braxton Hicks stop when you change position, rest or drink water. True labor contractions are stronger and occur at regular intervals. Consider using an app to monitor your contractions. If you are experiencing more than six every hour, then it’s time to give the labor ward a call.