If you’ve never experienced labor and delivery, it can feel a lot like sailing into uncharted water. And if you have, it’s important to recognize that each pregnancy and baby are different. As your due date approaches (or passes), you start to question every cramp and discomfort wondering “is this it?” To help put you at ease, here are six tell-tale signs of labor to watch out for:
- Lightening: Once your baby moves lower into your pelvis, you’re likely to feel relief from some of the pressure on your diaphragm that may have caused shortness of breath as your pregnancy progressed. This is a sign that your body and baby are preparing for labor. It also means you’ll probably feel even more pressure on your bladder, so be prepared for more frequent bathroom breaks.
- Loss of Mucus Plug: Sometimes referred to as the “bloody show,” some women will notice stringy mucus or discharge that may be clear, pink or blood tinged. The mucus plug protects is what protects the cervical opening from allowing bacteria to enter the uterus. As your cervix begins to thin and relax leading up to labor, the plug is expelled naturally minutes, hours, or sometimes days before the onset of labor.
- Water Breaks: Although often depicted on television and movies, only about 10% of women actually experience a dramatic gush of amniotic fluid indicated that their membranes have ruptured. Commonly referred to as your water breaking, some women experience a sudden gush, whereas others may have a constant trickle that at first may be mistaken for leaking urine. It’s important to note that amniotic fluid will be clear and odorless. If the fluid is anything other than clear and odorless, let your doctor know. If it is green in color or foul smelling, it may indicate the presence of infection or meconium (more brownish/greenish).
- Effacement: During the last month of pregnancy, your doctor will examine your cervix for signs of effacement–or stretching and thinning of your cervix. Effacement is a sign that your uterus is preparing for delivery, as the thinner your cervix gets the more easily it will dilate. Effacement is measured in percentages so you may hear your provider say you are 25%, 50% or 75% effaced.
- Dilation: Through a pelvic exam, your provider will also check whether your cervix is dilated (or opening). Measured in centimeters, fully dilated means that you are at 10 centimeters and your body is ready to give birth. In the weeks leading up to delivery, it is not uncommon for a woman to be a few centimeters dilated.
- Consistent Contractions: You’ve likely experience Braxton Hicks contractions at some point during your pregnancy, but consistent uterine contractors are a sure sign that you are in labor. These often start out feeling like menstrual cramps or like a lower backache. It’s important to make a note of the time when each contraction begins and how long they last. Unlike Braxton Hicks, labor contractions are consistent, follow a predictable pattern and become progressively closer together, longer lasting and stronger. When your contractions are consistently 5 minutes apart, it is time to call your doctor.
About Green Valley OB/GYN
The physicians at Green Valley OB/GYN have extensive experience in the management of both high and low-risk pregnancies having performed almost 25,000 deliveries. If at any time during your pregnancy you have questions, call us at (336) 378-1110. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an on-call physician available for emergencies 24/7.