As the magic number (your due date!) gets closer and closer, you’re likely to feel a range of emotions: excitement, anxiety, and confusion. Not to mention, there’s one huge question looming over you: when will labor start!? Even though there’s no single way to predict, the following symptoms suggest that your baby is on his or her way very soon.
- The baby drops: This term is used often — but a lot of new moms-to-be don’t totally understand what it means. If you feel a heaviness in your pelvis and less pressure in your ribs, your baby is likely “dropping” and preparing for the sprint at the end of this marathon.
- Contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions (sporadic and irregular) can start relatively early in your pregnancy. But, in the final weeks, real contractions will begin to occur more frequently and more intensely than Braxton Hicks contractions. Many healthcare providers recommend that women go to the hospital when contractions are coming regularly between 3 and 5 minutes. Each pregnancy is different, though, so be sure to speak with your provider directly about what threshold he or she recommends for you.
- Cervical changes: As birth approaches, your cervix undergoes some significant changes. Most of us know that the cervix dilates to help usher your baby into the world. Dilation can be assessed by your provider and typically starts weeks before you give birth; it is only a general indication of approaching labor. You may also experience a softening of your cervix due to the many changes in connective tissue associated with pregnancy.
- Bloody show: The “Bloody show” isn’t a horror movie your partner picked to scare you into labor; it’s when you pass the mucus plug surrounding your cervix. Typically, it’s tinted red, brown, or pink. It can come out as a lump all at once or increased vaginal discharge over a few days. This can also occur after a vaginal exam or sex.
- Water breaks: Your water breaking is the classic indication of labor. It’s worth noting that your “water breaking” is actually a rupture of the fluid filled sac surrounding the baby. Contractions should start soon after. If not, you’ll need to induce labor to minimize the risks of infection. So, if your water breaks – or you even you suspect it’s broken – call your provider immediately!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that labor is different for every woman and for every pregnancy. Some women will be uncomfortable, feeling labor approaching over the course of several weeks; others might only experience a backache. It’s always better to call your provider with a false alarm than to jeopardize your health. After all, it’s your body and your baby. You know what’s best for you, and if you’re unsure, your doctor or midwife can probably give you valuable advice!