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Pregnancy Tips: 10 signs that labor is starting soon

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Preparing for labor and delivery can be overwhelming. By learning more about the process and the signs and symptoms to look for, you may be able to feel more prepared mentally and physically for what is to come.

Labor can come on at any time during the third trimester of pregnancy, typically between 37 and 42 weeks gestation. In this post we will talk about 10 common signs that labor is starting soon. However, some women don't experience any of these signs or are unaware of them or experience some of these signs without them being connected to labor.

Every pregnancy is different, and labor can start earlier or later for some women or unfold in a different way or pace. It is best to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized information and guidance.

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What are the stages of childhood birth, labor and delivery?

The stages of labor can vary slightly, but generally, labor is divided into three stages:

Stage 1: Early Labor and Active Labor

- Early labor: This is the beginning of contractions and the cervix starts to dilate and efface (thin out). Contractions may be irregular and not too intense.

- Active labor: This stage begins when the cervix is around 6 centimeters dilated. Contractions become stronger, longer, and more frequent. This stage usually lasts until the cervix is fully dilated to 10 centimeters.

Stage 2: Pushing and Delivery

- This stage starts when the cervix is fully dilated. The mother will feel an urge to push, and with each contraction, she will actively push to help the baby move down the birth canal. The baby's head will start to crown, and eventually, the baby will be delivered.

Stage 3: Delivery of the Placenta

- After the baby is born, the uterus continues to contract, and the placenta separates from the uterine wall. The healthcare provider will assist in delivering the placenta, which usually happens within a few minutes after birth.

Labor can progress differently for each woman, and the length and experience of each stage can vary.

10 signs that labor is coming on soon

1. Increased Braxton Hicks contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as "practice contractions," become more frequent and intense as labor approaches.

2. Cervical changes: Your cervix may start to dilate or efface (thin out) in preparation for labor. Your healthcare provider can check for these changes during a pelvic examination.

3. Bloody show: You may notice a small amount of blood or pink-tinged mucus when you wipe after using the bathroom. This is a sign that your cervix is beginning to change.

4. Nesting instinct: Feeling a sudden burst of energy and an urge to clean, organize, or prepare the baby's room is common before labor.

5. Low back pain and cramps: Some women experience low back pain and menstrual-like cramps as the baby moves into position for birth.

6. Burst of energy: Some women experience a surge of energy, known as the "nesting instinct," in the days leading up to labor.

7. Diarrhea or upset stomach: Hormonal changes and the body's natural way of clearing the bowel before labor can cause loose stools or an upset stomach.

8. Water breaking: The rupture of the amniotic sac, also known as your water breaking, can be a sign that labor is imminent. This may result in a gush of fluid or a slow trickle.

9. Strong and regular contractions: Contractions become stronger, longer, and more frequent, typically lasting 30-60 seconds and occurring at more regular intervals.

10. Baby drops: The baby's head may engage in the pelvis, causing a noticeable change in the shape of your belly and potentially relieving pressure on your diaphragm, making it easier to breathe.

These signs can vary. It's best to consult with your healthcare provider to determine if you are in labor or if there are any concerns.

How to prepare for labor and delivery?

There are many things you can do to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Here are some general tips on how to prepare for labor:

1. Educate yourself: Attend childbirth classes or prenatal education courses to learn about the stages of labor, pain management techniques, breathing exercises, and what to expect during the birthing process. Knowledge can help alleviate anxiety and empower you during labor.

2. Create a birth plan: Discuss your preferences for labor and delivery with your healthcare provider and create a birth plan. This document outlines your preferences regarding pain relief, positions for labor, who you want to be present during labor, and other important details.

3. Stay active and healthy: Regular exercise during pregnancy can help prepare your body for labor. Engage in low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga. Additionally, eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and get enough rest to support your overall health.

4. Practice relaxation techniques: Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, visualization, or using a birthing ball. These techniques can help manage pain and anxiety during labor.

5. Pack your hospital bag: Prepare a bag with essentials for both you and your baby. Include items like comfortable clothing, toiletries, snacks, important documents, and any items for your baby such as clothes and blankets.

6. Communicate with your support team: Discuss your birth plan and preferences with your partner, family members, or friends who will be supporting you during labor. Ensure they understand your wishes and how they can provide emotional and physical support.

7. Prepare for pain management: Explore different pain management options, such as natural techniques like breathing exercises, hydrotherapy, or massage, as well as medical interventions like epidurals. Discuss these options with your healthcare provider to understand what is available to you.

8. Stay calm and positive: Surround yourself with a supportive and positive environment. Practice relaxation and positive affirmations to manage stress and anxiety during labor.

Remember, every labor and birth experience is unique. It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance on how to best prepare for labor based on your individual circumstances.

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