In the latent phase of labor (per-labor or early labor), you may experience:
In your first pregnancy, you will experience a phenomenon known as “lightening” a couple of weeks before the start of labor. This is characterized by heaviness in your pelvis, accompanied by a reduction in pressure just below your rib cage, making it easier to catch your breath.
2. Intense contractions or tightening
When your Braxton Hicks contractions get more frequent and intense, it means that your cervix is ripening and you are getting ready for true labor. In some cases, you may experience a menstrual-like, cramp feeling during this period.
As true labor sets in, the Braxton Hicks contractions may become quite painful and strike more frequently, around every 10 or 20 minutes, making you think that you are due. But if they don’t get stronger, longer, and closer together, and cause your cervix to progressively dilate, then you could be experiencing false labor.
3. Persistent lower back pain and bladder control
Backache is a common sign of labor, though it does not indicate the onset of childbirth. Many women usually experience backaches throughout the third trimester because the fetus grows the most during these three months, placing a lot of pressure on your back.
You may also experience a sudden and urgent need to use the toilet during labor, because the fetus is re positioned for delivery (head facing downwards), exerting extra pressure on your bladder.
4. The “show”
This refers to the passing of your mucus plug, which is a sticky brown/red substance that has sealed the cervix (opening of the womb) for the last nine months. The “show” signifies the start of labor, or may happen just before labor starts. This mucus can come away in one or several pieces, and usually contains a small amount of blood – perfectly normal.
Finally, the most obvious sign that you are in labor is when your water breaks. The amount of water (amniotic fluid) released can vary in amount, so you should consider keeping a sanitary towel. This fluid usually resembles urine, clear and a pale straw color, and may be a little blood stained.
If the waters are colored or smelly, you should contact your midwife immediately, as this may mean that your baby needs urgent attention. Even if there is no smell, you should still contact your midwife, because your baby will be unprotected from shock and at risk of infection without the amniotic fluid.
Dr. Torbati is an obstetrician located in Tarzana and has delivered hundreds of new babies into the hands of happy Mothers. He provides services high risk pregnancies, premature birth, C-Section patient choice, miscarriages, and other obstetrics services. Dr. Torbati has been in practice for over 20 years.