Labour is not something you're giving a manual for, you're not expected to know what's happening but it is important to stay calm and be prepared. We have the perfect guide to knowing when you're in labour.
What Is and When Will I Go into Labour?
Labour is the process of childbirth, starting with something called "contractions" which you will be very familiar with soon and ending with your beautiful newborn being brought into the world. Labour is broken down into 3 different stages;
- First Stage: from the first signs of labour until the cervix is dilated to 10cm,
- Second Stage: from 10cm dilation until your little one is delivered,
- Third Stage: delivery of the placenta.
Labour is a tricky one to schedule in. Yes, you will be given a "due date" but the percentage of babies born on their due date is very low. Often with your first baby, they will be born after their due date as they're too comfy nestled in your tummy. You can go into labour at any point but it is most common after the 38 week mark. It is known that up to 81.7% of babies are born by the 40 week mark. And 99.8% of babies are born by the 42 week mark.
Is This Early Labour?
Early labour is the beginning of labour until your cervix reaches the 3cm mark. You will continue to progress and will be examined approximately every 4 hours when you reach the hospital. Like all pregnant women, you will want to be prepared for what is about to happen during the dreaded process known as childbirth. You will want to know the step-by-step process, hence why you're probably sat with a pen and paper, ready to make notes.
But the reality is that every labour will be different, even your own, and we can't predict what's going to happen by the hour. We can however, give you some early signs and symptoms to look out for when you're approaching the end of your pregnancy that might just mean your little one is on their way. Look at these as warning signs to know that your little one is ready to make their long awaited appearance.
👇🏻Down baby, Down:
You will notice your baby drops significantly, your bump will appear lower and you will feel your baby's movements much lower down. This usually happens a few weeks before labour so don't be rushing for the hospital bags if you do notice this happening. You may have a long wait before your little one arrives.
💩Toilet is your new best-friend:
While this is an unpleasant symptom to experience, it’s all for a good cause, remember that. I know it’s hard, especially when you’re struggling to make the seventeenth trip from the couch to the toilet, just to need it again in approximately 15 minutes. You can thank your body’s relaxation for this symptom, as the muscles in your uterus are in the relaxation period to prepare for labour, so are the muscles in your rectum, something your slightly less grateful for.
🐣Nesting is underway:
Now you might be a recovering Zoflora addict after watching Mrs Hinch on instagram for a few nights a week and have been told you’re mad by your partner for referring to a duster as Dave but when labour is approaching, you can’t be kept away. You will scrub, clean and fold those clothes to your heart's content. You will find happiness in the strangest of ways. You will fold, re-fold and just triple check that your baby’s nursery is perfect. Welcome, to what we call “nesting”.
↔️ Dilation is key:
In the days (or even weeks for many women) leading up to your labour and delivery date your cervix will begin to dilate. The dilation means your cervix is opening and your cervix will also begin to efface (become thinner). You will be monitored during your examinations and your dilation will be measured and tracked leading up to the day you give birth to your little one.
⚡Back pain isn't fun:
When you reach the end of your pregnancy, back pain will visit you at least once a day, if not follow you around all day. You may find it difficult to go about your daily life and rituals that you once found so easy but take a break, have a KitKat. This is due to your body stretching and repositioning everything in preparation for the birth of your baby.
Your ovaries and placenta, throughout pregnancy, have been very good at producing a hormone known as Relaxin. No, it’s not the cool kids way of saying “relaxing”, it’s actually the way your body loosens up your ligaments and joints throughout pregnancy. This will come in handy when trying to push your little one out of a… Well put it this way, your pelvis will open up and thank god for that!
📊Weight gain comes to a stop:
After 9 months of the pregnant life most women are more than ready for labour and are actually on the countdown to their due date. You will likely notice a huge halt in the weight you were once gaining so rapidly and usually this is something a lady is very happy about. You may even experience a slight decrease in weight but is this because you’re about to give birth or is it thanks to the 25th visit to the toilet that day? Who knows!
Am I in Active Labour?
Active labour is the stage of labour from 3cm dilated all the way up to 7cm. The following symptoms are very common in usually the days to hours leading up to the birth of your little one.
🩸Colour Changing Discharge:
Majority of women experience a thickened discharge which may be pinkish in colour, this is known as your “bloody show”. This can be a great indication that labour is well on the way, but again, don’t be rushing for your hospital bags just yet as this can usually mean labour is hours or days away.
🛀Mucous Plug No More:
You won’t be aware until nearer to labour that you’re actually carrying round a plug that is keeping your baby from the outside world. So your baby is basically in a confined bath tub, with the plug tightly keeping them safe inside. You may notice this come out before labour starts, or you might not be aware it’s come out at all, everyone is different. It is called a mucous plug as it looks just like mucus from your nose.
You will begin experiencing contractions which is basically a fancy word for labour pains. You will experience these in the lead up to labour which is kick starting your body into having a baby. You will have experienced practice contractions known as “Braxton Hicks contractions” but if you learn the difference, you will know when to start timing them and then eventually make your way to the hospital.
🚰"My Waters Have Broken!":
Your waters breaking is probably one of the most expected signs of labour for most women. Whilst it is normal for your waters to break, the way in which they do can be different for everyone. Many women expect the dramatic gush, but this is not always the case, it can take a while to leak out too. It is proven by the NHS that your baby will make their appearance within around 12-24 hours after your waters breaking.
Is This the Transition Phase?
The transition phase is the third and final phase of the early stage of labour. This carries from 7cm to 10cm, this is the final phase before you begin to push. This can often be the shortest phase of labour but many women find it the hardest. The rest of the labour can seem quite slow but the minute you’re in this phase, your baby is almost here. Here are a number of symptoms you may experience during this phase;
- Hot flashes,