Is Labor Starting?
The anticipation of labor that comes in the late weeks of pregnancy is so strong that it sometimes seems unbearable!
You want to know how labor will begin - and how you will know that this is really it!
You may want to know if inducing is ok. You may hear different things from different people you talk to. As always with becoming a mother it's your choice - but having the facts helps a lot.
Is This It?
Midwives are good at giving advice to enjoy the end of your pregnancy and to wait patiently for your baby to be ready. It's to listen to that advice, but it really is the best!
Spending the last few weeks of pregnancy grumpy and on edge about when the baby will be coming can make you miserable.
If you think that labor might be starting relax and go about your daily routine. If this is truly it things will begin to happen.
If it's not anything you've been feeling will putter out and you won't be exhausted from getting too worked up.
There are a couple very obvious ways to tell that your baby's birth is growing near:
- Very strong, close contractions that don't stop when you change activities.
- Having your water break.
- Experiencing contractions that steadily build and come at regular intervals is a good sign you're in early labor.
Often though you won't have such a definite sign.
Your labor may begin slowly with you noticing an increase in Braxton-hicks contractions. Or maybe you feel slightly crampy, as if your period were about to start.
The very best thing to do is to go about your day as usual. Or if it's nighttime go to sleep. You can rest assured that you'll wake up if you need to ;)
Even if your water "breaks" labor may not begin immediately. It could be just a trickle - your water bag can reseal itself. Or it could be a definite gush.
It will probably begin within 24 hours of a "gush," but if the bag reseals from a small trickle it could be awhile before you go into labor.
Your body constantly makes amniotic fluid for your baby, so don't worry about going "dry" and harming your baby.
Another sign is the mucous plug. This mucous keeps your cervix sealed during pregnancy.
As the birth approaches and your cervix gets ready (called "ripening") you will sometimes pass bits of this plug. It's exciting but it doesn't mean that labor is imminent.
Some people believe that a "bloody show" is different than a plug - a "show" is mucous that is tinged with blood (from tiny capillaries that break as the mucous pulls away from the cervix.)
A show may mean that labor is closer - think 48 hours or so. If you're having crampy Braxton-hicks and also have a show it can mean things are starting.
Dilation and effacement are probably the worst ways to judge when birth is going to occur. You can be 3cms dilated and 100% effaced and stay pregnant for a few more weeks.
Or you can be not dilated or effaced at all and have your baby the next day. It's really a bad indication.
If you're dilated and your care provider tries to push induction on that basis alone refusing is probably the best thing you can do. Wait on your baby's timing and enjoy the free centimeters - you won't have to go through them in labor!
What Do I Do?
If you think labor is starting but you're not sure waiting is truly the best thing you can do. If it will reassure you call your care provider.
Going to the hospital or even the birth center so early is probably not the wisest thing for you or your baby, though. If you do go in and it's clear that you have a long way to go you should think about going home.
Going through your day normally will help you. You'll be able to figure out if your "labor" is going to putter out to resume another day, or if it's getting stronger.
Remember even if it does stop your body has accomplished some real work. Relax and take a walk, a nap, or get a few things done around the house. Sleep if you need to. Eat what you want to. Time will tell you what's going on.
You might feel a sudden burst of energy or a strong "nesting instinct" and all of a sudden wish to clean your house from top to bottom! Many grandmothers love to tell stories of going into labor while they scrubbed the floor!
If you do feel such a burst of energy take it easy! Don't go overboard with cleaning or preparing your baby's things - you'll want some of that energy.
Sometimes women will begin to have a lot of indigestion. Having the "runs" is another sign that women use to know that labor is starting. It's your body's way of cleaning out and providing room for your baby to move down.
All that running back and forth to the toilet keeps you moving around too, which is good for early labor! Call your care provider if you're having a lot of indigestion. Do remember that it will most likely stop as the birth gets under way.
Consider laboring at home as long as possible if you are planning a birth center or hospital birth. Your home is the most relaxed place and there are no restrictions placed on you.
If you go into the hospital too early, your labor will be timed and there could be pressures on you progress faster than you are. This could lead to augmentation with chemicals - and all the interventions that must come after it.
I highly recommend The Pink Kit to prepare for your labor. Know exactly what to do when you think the birth is starting... have the skills you need to recognize and work through labor - and be in control no matter where you're giving birth.
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