Signs of Labor – How Do I Know if I’m in Labor?

how do I know when signs of labor

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While every woman’s experience of labor is unique, you are still likely to recognize the signs when the time comes. The only way to really know when labor started is after you’ve been through it. That said, your body starts to prepare for birth up to a month before the due date, though you may be unaware of what is going on, or notice some new changes in early labor to let you know that labor is imminent.

In the latent phase of labor (per-labor or early labor), you may experience:

1. Lightening

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 obstetrician tarzanaDr. 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.

When Should I See a Gynecologist for My First Time?

when to see gynecologist first timeVisiting a gynecologist – a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health – means that you’re being responsible for your body. Seeing a gynecologist offers numerous benefits, like:

  • Helping you understand the changes in your body and how to take care of yourself
  • Learning to protect yourself when you’re sexually active
  • Ensuring that your reproductive system is healthy and problem free
  • Helping you avoid problems in future

So, when should you visit a gynecologist for your first time?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, teenage girls should start seeing a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15 years, irrespective of whether or not they’re sexually active.

Most gynecologists recommend that women schedule their first visit by the age of 21, usually within two or three years of being sexually active. Return visits can be scheduled once a year or every three years depending on whether you have any concerns, including after menopause, until around the age of 70 years.

Other Times to Schedule a Visit

There are certain situations that could prompt you to visit your gynecologist more than once a year, like:

  • Regular pelvic pain – There are multiple likely causes of pelvic pain or abdominal discomfort, including a ruptured ovarian cyst, an infection, a dangerous ectopic pregnancy (foetus developing outside the uterus), uterine fibroids, or endometriosis. When you see your gynecologist, you should tell them what kind of pain you’re experiencing to help them make a proper diagnosis.
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  • Bleeding between periods – Occasional spotting between periods is common and not a cause of alarm. But when the bleeding is heavy, painful, and lasts for days, you should call your gynecologist. Mid-cycle bleeding could indicate a miscarriage, injury to the vagina, or cancer of the uterus or cervix.
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  • Unusual bleeding – Any bleeding that is not associated with your period, like bleeding during or after intercourse, or bleeding during pregnancy, you should consult your gynecologist immediately.
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  • Changes in your period – If your period suddenly becomes heavy, soaking through pads in only a few hours or the period lasting longer than 7 days, you should call your gynecologist. Missed periods should also be checked, as they may indicate pregnancy or another medical condition that needs attention.
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  • Unusual soreness or discharge in the genital area – Vaginal discharge is normal and helps keep your vagina clean and healthy. But if the discharge is yellow, grey, or green, has a foul smell, or causes itching around your vagina, you should see your gynecologist.
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  • Painful sex – Can be in the form of soreness in your genital area or deep pelvic pain.
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  • Problems with bowel movements – Difficulty moving your bowels can indicate pelvic floor problems.

Dr. Torbati has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in Tarzana for several years, developing a full understanding of what the most common gynecologic problems are and the best approaches in treating them. His impeccable bedside manner combined with his vast knowledge of gynecology make him one of the best gynecology doctors in the area.