How To Tell If Your labour Has Started

How To Tell If Your labor Has Started

How To Tell If Your labour Has Started

All mums-to-be worry if they’ll know for sure when their baby’s on the way. Remove all doubt with these fail-safe signs…

SERIOUS MOOD SWINGS
You might have got used to feeling more up and down than usual during your pregnancy, but surging hormones at the beginning of labor can bring their own distinct changes in mood. Nobody fully understands exactly how labor is triggered, but we do know that the hormone oxytocin plays a key role. Oxytocin is associated with feelings of bonding and motherhood. This is also true of another hormone called prolactin which is released. When these hormones spike together, it often leads to a very pleasant feeling just before labor – an exciting but tender and sensitive emotion.

However, as you move into labor, adrenaline is also released. This ‘fight or flight’ hormone focuses the expectant mother on the task ahead. This focus means you’re likely to exclude everybody, including your partner, and you may become irritable when asked a question– so giving some advanced warning may be helpful! It’s a natural part of the process and shows that you’re mentally turning inward and preparing for the process of giving birth to your baby.

Such a combination of different hormones can leave you feeling emotional, excited or moody. You may feel restless, anxious or impatient, too. Or everything at once!

You’ve spent nine months waiting for your baby and today’s the day… or at least you think it is. “How will I know labor has started?” is a question that almost all first-time mums-to-be ask their midwife. It’s asked by many second-time mums too, especially if their first labor was induced or they had a planned caesarean. And it’s frustrating to hear the stock answer: “It’s different for everyone.” The truth is that yes, it is different for everyone. But there are plenty of signs that indicate your labor has started, and that twinge isn’t just a Braxton Hicks practice contraction or a bit of trapped wind. Here M&B explains some of the key signals to watch out for… 1 SERIOUS MOOD SWINGS

You might have got used to feeling more up and down than usual during your pregnancy, but surging hormones at the beginning of labor can bring their own distinct changes in mood. Nobody fully understands exactly how labor is triggered, but we do know that
the hormone oxytocin plays a key role. Oxytocin is associated with feelings of bonding and motherhood. This is also true of another hormone called prolactin which is released. When these hormones spike together, it often leads to a very pleasant feeling just before labor – an
exciting but tender and sensitive emotion.

However, as you move into labor, adrenaline is also released. This ‘fight or flight’ hormone focuses the expectant mother on the task ahead. This focus means you’re likely to exclude everybody, including your partner, and you may become irritable when asked a question
– so giving some advanced warning may be helpful! It’s a natural part of the process and shows that you’re mentally turning inward and preparing for the process of giving birth to your baby.

Such a combination of different hormones can leave you feeling emotional, excited or moody. You may feel restless, anxious or impatient, too. Or everything at once!

A SHOW
During pregnancy, a mucus plug sits at the neck of your cervix and protects your uterus by helping to keep out infections. It’s a blob of phlegm-like jelly, usually the size of a 20 cent coin, which is frequently pale but can sometimes be stained with blood. The plug may come away when you’re urinating (in which case you’ll probably just notice a streak of blood), or you may find it in your pants. This can be a sign that labor is on its way and is called ‘having a show’. You can lose the mucus plug a few hours to a week before labor begins, in one big piece or just gradually, bit by bit.

TENDER BREASTS
As you enter labor, your breasts will start to swell. Your nipples will become tender and more responsive and you might feel a tingling sensation. This is your body getting ready to breastfeed your baby. You may also notice a leaking of colostrum from your nipples in the
weeks before birth. This clear fluid is packed full of antibodies and is designed to help protect your baby, through her first feeds, when she finally emerges into the world.

BACKACHE
A pain in your back can be a sign that your baby is rotating into the right for labor. This can take a few days and might be quite painful. It can also be due to the ligaments in your pelvis relaxing, to allow your baby the room to fit through.

By the time labor starts, your baby will also have dropped, with her head downwards, into the start of your birth canal. This causes physical pressure on your back, which can also make it ache. Backache can also herald the start of contractions, as some women experience
them more in their back than in their stomach. Try a heat pack or warm shower to help ease back pain.

 CRAMPS
When you’re going into labor, you may feel a low, dull ache in your stomach akin to period pain. Every month when you have your period, progesterone helps open your cervix slightly to allow blood out. In early labor, progesterone acts on your cervix in the same way to allow it to soften and open for your baby – which is why the initial labor cramps can feel familiar.

APPETITE LOSS AND NAUSEA.

If you’ve spent nine months wanting to eat anything in sight, then the start of labour might wella surprise. Your adrenaline levels
increase to prepare you for giving birth, but can also leave you feeling like you don’t want to eat or drink. This has a biological function: your body wants your blood to be mobilised and carrying oxygen during birth, not going to your intestines to help with food digestion.

Hormonal changes can mean that the nausea you may have experienced in your first trimester returns with a vengeance, and you may even vomit. Digestion slows right down as labour begins, so vomiting could also be your body’s way of expelling food as the process of bringing your baby.

At around 20 weeks of pregnancy, your uterus starts tightening and then relaxing again. These painless contractions are known as ‘Braxton
Hicks’ after the doctor who first described them. They’re just like the contractions you’ll have later on but, at this point in your pregnancy, won’t be strong enough to cause labour.

In the days or weeks before birth, the Braxton Hicks may come closer together, intermittently rhythmic or even painful, possibly fooling you into thinking you’re in labour. But in true labour contractions grow consistently longer, stronger and closer together.

As proper labour gets under way, oxytocin levels rise quite sharply, causing contractions to intensify and eventually become more regular. The textbook pattern is that contractions start mildly and come about every 20 to 30 minutes. They gradually get stronger, longer and closer together, coming every 15, then 10, then five minutes. By the end of the first stage they come every minute or two. Labour doesn’t always go by the book, though, and some women will find their contractions are strong and close together right from the outset, or spaced apart throughout labour.

WATERS BREAKING
During gestation, your baby sits in the amniotic sac surrounded by fluid to protect her. When birth is imminent, this sac often breaks. It might be the start of labour, or it might not break until established labour.

While all healthy pregnancies have a similar amount of amniotic fluid, women can experience their waters breaking in different ways. For some there is a ‘pop’ sound and a gush of up to 400ml of liquid. Others feel a trickle and will need to wear a maternity pad for 10 minutes to be sure.

However, at this point, your baby will be pressing on your bladder, so you may need to urinate frequently and might not even notice the amniotic fluid coming out. Amniotic fluid smells different to urine
– odourless or faintly sweet – and is a pale, straw-like colour. If it’s dark in colour, your baby may have passed a bowel movement.

This can be a sign of distress, so call your midwife and head to hospital.

DIARRHOEA
The progesterone that helps your uterus contract during labour can also sometimes cause women to experience diarrhoea in the hours leading up to birth. This spike in hormones also explains why some of us suffer from an upset stomach around the time of our period. Be aware that the rectal
pressure that makes you feel like you’re about to have a bowel movement
could actually be your baby’s head dropping lower into your pelvis.

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