The moment you find out that you are pregnant is just the most wonderful feeling in the world if you have planned it.
After the excitement has calmed down it’s likely that you will start thinking about labor and what it will be like for you.
What are the signs of labor approaching?
It’s a good idea to prepare yourself to be fully knowledgeable so you know what to expect as the time draws closer.
No one likes to walk into anything blindly and going into labor should be no different.
Here are 10 signs of labor approaching you need to be on the lookout for
Some of these things happen in the weeks leading up to delivery and some happen days before labor kicks in.
1. Braxton Hicks
Some people can get confused over Braxton hicks. I know I certainly did during my first pregnancy.
Braxton hicks are your body’s way of preparing for labor. They are also known as practice contractions.
Thankfully they feel nothing like the real thing and aside from feeling slightly uncomfortable, they shouldn’t bother you too much.
Braxton Hicks can start anywhere from the second trimester but are more commonly known in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Braxton hicks usually happen as the uterus tightens then releases again.
2. Engagement (Baby drops down)
When your baby becomes engaged it means that your baby is in the best position for giving birth. This generally means that your baby is head down and has entered into your pelvis.
Engagement happens at different times for different women but again this tends to happen mostly in the third trimester.
If you are very active during your pregnancy it is likely that it could happen sooner.
If your baby has not engaged after a certain amount of time you will find that your midwife will advise you to take walks to help with “getting baby moving”.
As your baby drops down walking can get a little more uncomfortable and this is usually when you see women doing the pregnancy waddle.
I can only describe the dropping down effect as feeling heavy. You almost feel like you want to hold your baby up in case they fall out (they totally won’t though lol)
3. Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is also another sign that labor is approaching. It could be that each time you visit the toilet you may see some discharge.
If this is happening, it should be clear and odorless.
If there is any color or a smell, you need to visit your doctor immediately as it could be a sign of something more serious.
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Your final trimester may leave you feeling wiped out. This is not unusual at all.
Your body is extremely clever and it knows that something big is about to happen.
Your body will begin storing and using up more nutrients for the baby and in preparation for the big day when you give birth.
This is the reason some women like to take supplements recommended by their doctor at this time.
You may also notice that your iron levels also drop lower in your final trimester.
It is quite common for women to become anemic during this time. This is because of the excess amount of blood that the body produces to provide enough nutrients for your growing baby.
All of this contributes to the fatigue that you feel in those last few days or weeks of pregnancy.
Again if you have noticed that you are extremely tired, you will need to see a doctor as it can become quite dangerous if left untreated.
5. Increase in Bowel Movements
Extra bowel movements happen in the last few days before your baby arrives.
It is a great sign that you are in the early stages of labor.
In your last few days of pregnancy, your body will attempt to empty your bowels to make sure there is room for your uterus to be able to contract efficiently.
Believe me, you will be very glad of this later on when you come to deliver!
These next 5 signs of labor approaching tend to occur much closer to your delivery date.
6. Waters Break
Although some people think that once your waters break it means that labor is imminent, it does not.
Your waters can technically break a couple of days before you go into labor. They can also break much later on.
I’ve had 4 children and my waters have never broken before I have gone into active labor.
In fact either I have had to have them broken for me or they have gone in my last few pushes before the baby comes out.
Also just to be clear it is highly unlikely that if your waters break before active labor begins that it will break like a tap on full blast.
What they show on TV is very unrealistic and you are much more likely to have a trickle of water rather than full-on floodgates.
This is why for some women when their waters break they feel as though they have wet themselves.
If you are ever unsure, put a sanitary towel in your knickers and show it to your midwife.
Often referred to as a “show” it is actually called a mucus plug.
In your final days of pregnancy, it is normal to start seeing bits of your mucus plug coming away.
Your mucus plug is a reddish-brown color. It forms during pregnancy and lodges in the cervix to protect the baby.
Your mucus plug stops bacteria and any other nasty infections from harming your baby. It also protects your baby if you have sex or perhaps when you have a vaginal exam.
In short, you want that mucus plug to stick around as long as possible.
As your cervix begins to open up you will start to see more of your mucus plug coming away.
8. Cervix Dilation
In order for your baby to come out into the big wide world, your cervix has to open up.
The maximum your cervix can open is to 10cm.
You might find that your cervix slowly begins to open in your final few weeks of pregnancy.
This is nothing to be worried about but try not to do anything too strenuous during this time.
You may not even notice your cervix opening up until your midwife does an examination and tells you.
Women feel varying degrees of pain but usually, you may not feel any pain until you are around roughly 3cm.
9. Dull Lower Back Pain
As you enter into early labor you might find that you begin to feel some dull lower back pain.
This is not active labor and is usually just more uncomfortable rather than truly painful. So don’t rush off to the hospital just yet.
The longer you can labor at home the better it will be for you as you will be in the comfort of your own home.
If this is your first baby, you may not even deliver for another couple of days so don’t be in too much of a rush at this stage.
If you go to the hospital too early you will only be turned away and this will do no good for your psyche anyway.
First time pregnancy labor tends to take longer (I’ve no idea why) so it is quite possible that you could be in labor for another day or so before active labor kicks in.
These contractions are a surefire way to know that you are in labor.
If the contractions are regular, don’t go away when you move around and they begin to get worse, congratulations you are in true labor and will be meeting your bundle of joy very very soon.
These signs of labor approaching are not exhaustive and there may very well be more signs out there but these are definitely the main ones that you will noticeably come across.
If you want to know more about what to expect from going into labor then I would highly recommend the online prenatal classes from Pulling Curls.
This course is great because firstly you don’t need to leave your house to take it (great if you are experiencing fatigue).
Secondly, the course will teach you everything you need to know about what to expect in those final days before your baby arrives and even after your baby is here.
If you want to take a peek you can do so by clicking here: Pulling Curls Prenatal Care