Labour – how do you know when it’s starting?

You know in films, where the woman suddenly clutches her bump, her waters break everywhere and then about an hour later a baby appears? Well, it’s not (usually) like that at all. Here’s our quick guide for knowing that it’s ‘happening’ – and be warned, labour, especially first time around, can take a while…

 

You get back ache…

What? Yes, it’s true, the first sign of labour can be a pain in your back. You might have been having back pain throughout pregnancy, but if it suddenly intensifies, it can be a perfectly healthy sign that your baby is moving downwards and pressing his or her skull against your spine. Ouch. A hot water bottle can be your best friend at this point, and if the pain is coming in waves, don’t forget to time them as they may be proper contractions, just not happening quite where you’d expect them to.

 

You get an upset tummy…

As if you haven’t got enough to think about, the lovely hormones called prostaglandins that cause contractions also stimulate your bowels. It’s like nature is having a laugh. So if you get diarrhoea, or just find you’re going to the loo a bit more often, it could be a sign that your body is starting to produce the hormones that kickstart labour.

 

You have a show…

No, not that sort of show. There’s nothing glitzy about the mucus plug that closes your cervix dislodging. Yes, you heard right, not exactly ‘Broadway’ is it? The mucus either comes out as either a blob or as a discharge over a couple of days. And as blood vessels can tear as the cervix opens, you could have what’s known as a ‘bloody show’. Don’t get too excited though, this can happen hours away from labour, or a couple of weeks.

 

Your waters break…

This can signal the start of labour but if you’re worried about it happening in the queue in Sainsbury’s, remember that only 8% of women experience ‘membrane rupture’ as its known before they have any contractions. And even when they do break, before the big gush you’re more likely to have a bit of leakage because your baby’s head often prevents too much fluid from coming out to start with.

 

Your contractions start…

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But many women are fooled by practice contractions – known as Braxton Hicks – in the final weeks of pregnancy. So how do you know if it’s the real deal? Braxton Hicks rarely get strong or regular, and then they usually go away, while actual contractions typically start out as a period type pain and then get more intense and more frequent over time. Buckle up – you’re on your way!

 

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