There are few things that can get your adrenaline rushing like labor; not sky-high bungee jumping, not rude rickshaw drivers, not even cows sunbathing in the middle of the expressway when you’re already an hour late to work. Nope. Labor equals adrenaline like you’ve never seen it before. In the weeks that precede your delivery, however, you may become hyper-aware of aches, pains and cramps in your body, of which most may be ordinary and not necessarily associated with labor. That’s why it’s important to recognise legitimate signs of labor so that you can seek the help you need in the lead up to your delivery.
In a hat tip to all things labor on Cloudnine, we’ve put together a little guide to help you recognise labor pain symptoms and early signs of labor. Here’s presenting to you, the Labor Lookbook.
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Your body may decide to do a recce before your actual contractions set in. Braxton Hicks contractions can set in as early as 24 weeks into your pregnancy, leading your abdomen to start flexing every few minutes. However, these aren’t real contractions at all; they’re simply your body’s way of fortifying the uterus. Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t usually painful, although they may cause a certain amount of discomfort. Their frequency may increase as you approach your due date, but they aren’t always an indication of labor.
As your baby lays the groundwork for her expedition into the world, she will begin moving lower into your pelvis. Your belly will drop further south as this happens, especially if your baby is tucked right below your rib cage.
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And you thought nausea was reserved exclusively for the first trimester. Oh, well. The truth is, the last month of pregnancy may hold a few surprises you hadn’t signed up for. Diarrhoea and nausea may strike towards the end of your pregnancy; these are signs that the muscles in your pelvis and rectum are starting to ease in preparation for labor.
The loss of the mucus plug is the real deal as far as labor is concerned. As your body prepares to release its little resident, the layer of mucus plugged into the cervix may come loose. This mucus typically works as a shield for your baby through the pregnancy period, safeguarding her against bacteria. As the cervix prepares for dilation, it softens and lets go of the mucus. In turn, you may notice a mucus-filled vaginal discharge, possibly laced with blood. The mucus may appear hours or even days before the commencement of your labor. Make sure to observe your vaginal mucus carefully as you near your due date.
Read More: How to breathe during labor
The last leg of your pregnancy will see your cervix dilated, possibly to a few centimeters. However, this isn’t a true reflection of your readiness for labor. A labor is considered active only when you are dilated to four centimeters.
If you’re envisioning yourself in the middle of a meeting, only to be interrupted by a sudden gush of water from your pelvis, you’ve probably been watching too many movies. Of course, this scenario is definitely a possibility, but it is more probable that your water bag will break after you’re already in labor, most likely at the hospital.
If your baby is feeling especially adventurous and curls up into a peculiar position in your womb, your contractions may manifest as acute, periodic back pain.
So, how do you differentiate between Braxton Hicks and regular contractions? A good place to start would be measuring the degree of pain. Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t typically painful, although they can cause unease. Actual contractions, on the other hand, follow a rhythmic pattern and are more intense. Stop and take a moment to measure the moment if you aren’t sure. If you need to stop to catch a breath or you aren’t able to speak through a contraction, it’s a good idea to get to the hospital right away.
There may be several misleading triggers that may have you thinking that you’re in labor. However, observe your body closely to watch for surefire signs. The 4-1-1 rule is usually a foolproof indicator; this implies contractions that are four minutes apart, lasting one minute each, and stretching collectively to one hour.
As you count down to D-day, remember to make a note of the signs of labor covered in this little Labor Lookbook. With our tips, make your labor of love.
Must Read: How to deal with Labor Pain?
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