Signs of Labor: How do I know I am? This is one of the issues that most concern pregnant women.
While some know immediately when they are actually in the birth process, others may mistake this early stage of the birth process for gas, heartburn, lower back pain, or indigestion.
But what are the signs? Here’s how to know if you are going into labor.
In summary, there are several signs that can show the onset of labor, but rhythmic contractions are the most important sign.
Other factors are rupture of the pouch, loss of the mucus plug, and dilation of the cervix. These are all signs that the pregnancy is coming to an end!
That is, this indicates that labor can start within a few hours.
In the case of the first child, the time of labor can vary between 12 to 18 hours, reaching up to 24 hours, but this time tends to decrease with each pregnancy.
That is, subsequent deliveries are generally shorter, on average 6 to 8 hours.
Premature birth can start at 20 weeks of gestation, but ideally it starts after 37 weeks.
The most common is that symptoms appear little by little, with cramps that become more intense and painful.
You 4 main signs that indicate that labor is starting are:
1. Regular contractions
Contractions are relatively frequent throughout pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, as the body begins to prepare its muscles for the time of delivery.
However, in the hours before delivery, these contractions start to be more frequent, stronger and appear with less space between them, becoming more rhythmic.
Contractions, perceived by some women as a tightening belly, are felt in the abdomen (lower part) or back.
They occur because the uterus is contracting and relaxing at the same time, a movement that will help open the cervix and push the baby into the birth canal.
During the early stage of labor, contractions are felt like menstrual cramps. When the birth process truly begins the contractions become regular.
In the early stages, they usually occur at intervals of 15 to 20 minutes and last between 30 and 45 seconds.
As labor progresses, these contractions become more frequent and last for around 60 seconds.
In other words, when the contractions last about 60 seconds or even 45, and appear every 5 minutes, or 2-3 contractions in 10 minutes, it’s time to go to the hospital!
From that moment, the pregnant woman must seek the hospital and notify her doctor.
Remembering that contractions remain constant, even when the pregnant woman lies down or walks.
Note: If you notice regular and painful contractions before the 37th week, the pregnant woman should immediately seek out her doctor or hospital, as she may be in the process of premature birth.
2. Loss of mucus plug
During the last few weeks of pregnancy, the cervix begins to thin and dilate in preparation for delivery, which can lead to the loss of a mucus plug.
When this occurs, the pregnant woman notices the exit of a mucous substance through the vagina.
How to identify? The loss of this mucus plug can be identified when the pregnant woman goes to the bathroom and, when cleaning herself, observes the presence of a pink or slightly brown gelatinous secretion.
Along with the tampon there may still be slight bleeding. If the blood loss is more intense, it is important to go quickly to the hospital or contact the obstetrician.
This is not so much a sign of labor as it is approaching.
In fact, labor sometimes doesn’t start until several days after this sign, but it’s good to stay alert anyway.
But what is this mucus plug/plug?
It is a secretion that closes the entrance to the uterus to protect the baby during pregnancy, preventing the entry of microorganisms and preventing infections.
3. Breakage of the water bag
Loss of water indicates the rupture of the membranes, or “water pockets”, that hold amniotic fluid during pregnancy.
When this occurs, the pregnant woman does not feel pain, just the sensation of warm water running down her legs. It can break early or late in labor, but it is more common for it to break early.
It is important for a pregnant woman to notify her doctor when she suspects fluid loss, especially if the rupture occurs before labor begins.
Usually, the woman feels the loss of half a liter of water, but the amount will depend on where the pouch broke.
In cases of high tears, the loss of fluid can be small, just enough to moisten the panties without running.
You may continue to lose fluid as your baby continues to produce it.
Keep in mind that this is a natural, healthy part of your labor, and doesn’t hurt your baby.
Many women confuse urine leakage and excessive vaginal discharge with a ruptured pouch. But it’s relatively simple to tell them apart.
When a pregnant woman empties her bladder and the water loss appears to disappear, then it is likely urinary incontinence rather than rupture of the membranes. If the liquid is sticky then it’s probably runny.
The “water bag” is a liquid similar to urine, but clearer and cloudy, which may contain some whitish traces.
When there is no certainty, it is best to go to the doctor!
Contrary to the desire to urinate, in the case of rupture of the water bag, the woman cannot stop the loss of fluid.
Signs of labor – 4. Dilation of the cervix
Another indicator that the baby is close to being born is the dilation of the cervix, which increases as labor develops.
But the dilation can only be observed in the hospital by the obstetrician or midwife, through the “touch” exam.
It takes a 10 cm dilation of the cervix to allow the baby to pass, and this is the longest period of labor.
Uterine contractions in late pregnancy are common – and not all of them mean you’re going into labor.
Therefore, it is necessary to learn to differentiate false contractions, which do not cause dilation of the cervix, from the real ones – which actually indicate the beginning of labor.
Some signs help: the contractions of false labor are irregular; a change in activity, or even in position, results in a decrease in the intensity of contractions.
It is not uncommon to have one or two episodes of false labor during pregnancy. When you are not sure, the best thing is for the pregnant woman to see her doctor or hospital.
If it’s fake, he’ll tell you to go home and observe – and whatever, go back to the hospital.
Learn all about waterbirth here!
I’m in labor! And now?
When identifying that you are in labor, it is important to take into account the type of delivery you want (and what is possible for your case):
When the pregnant woman wants to have a cesarean you should inform the obstetrician of the symptoms you are experiencing while traveling to the hospital.
In most cases of cesarean, the surgery is already scheduled for a few days before the probable date of delivery and, therefore, the woman may not show any signs of labor.
Signs of labor – 2. Normal birth
When a pregnant woman wants a normal delivery and finds out that she has gone into labor, she should stay calm and check on the clock how often the contractions appear.
This is because labor takes time and there is no need to go to the hospital immediately after the first signs, especially if the contractions are not rhythmic and more frequent.
At the beginning of labor, a pregnant woman can continue with her daily activities, especially when the first child is born, because in this case, labor takes an average of 24 hours.
Check it out here: Baby is born premature: What can it do?
When to call your doctor?
During pregnancy, ask your doctor about when to call. Together, you will determine the frequency and duration of contractions needed for the doctor to be located.
Obstetricians usually ask to be called when contractions occur 2 or 3 times every 10 minutes.
It is also important to be aware of these three aspects:
- Pregnant women who are prone to rapid births should call their doctor at the very beginning of regular uterine contractions.
- Anyone who is past the likely date of delivery and has not felt the contractions should also contact the obstetrician.
- When the water bag breaks, it is also a case of talking to the doctor.
Signs of Labor – Timing the Contractions
Timing the contractions helps determine what stage of labor the pregnant woman is at.
You can measure the frequency of contractions by controlling the time between the onset of one and the onset of another.
Your partner can help by looking at the interval between contractions, as well as the duration of each contraction.
When to go to the hospital?
You should go to the hospital when the contractions are very strong and come every 5 minutes.
However, it is important to take into account the traffic and the distance from home to the hospital, and it may be necessary to prepare to go out while the contractions are every 10 minutes.