How will I know when I'm in labour?

Your nine months of pregnancy are almost over! As you wait to finally meet your baby, you’ll no doubt be watchful of every twinge you feel. Here’s what to expect when you’re actually going into labour.  
What are the signs of labour?
There are three very definite and physical signs that your labour has begun. Research shows that they can happen in any order.

Your water breaks
When your amniotic membranes rupture, you can be sure that your labour has started. It can either trickle out slowly and feel like you’ve wet yourself, or appear in a gush with some trickling afterwards.

Regular contractions
Another sure sign of labour is when you start having regular contractions. They may start like period pain, back pain or lower pelvic cramps. Your contractions will come in waves, starting near the top of the womb and moving down towards your cervix. They will become more regular, stronger, and closer together, and increase in length from 20 seconds to around 60 to 90 seconds near birth.

The show
When the mucous plug from the cervix passes through the vagina then you aren’t far from labour – either soon after the show or in the next few days. You can expect the show to look a bit bloody. Mucous is passed throughout your labour to make it easier for your baby to be delivered. 
What is pre-term labour?
Every labour is very different, and unpredictable. Pre-term labour occurs earlier than expected and you should go straight to the hospital. The warning signs are:

  • You start bleeding (more than just a show of blood).

  • Your labour seems to be progressing very quickly.

  • Your contractions are almost 5 minutes apart if labour is progressing slowly.

  • You are not feeling well. 

When to go to the hospital?
Studies show that it’s common for labour to start in the early hours of the morning. If this happens to you, rather stay in bed and try to sleep or rest. Sometimes the contractions stop for a while or are easier to manage. Current medical opinion is that if you go to the hospital too early, the waiting and anxiety may cause your labour to slow down or stop completely. If it’s a more reasonable time (not in the middle of the night) then you could go for a walk which may help to establish your labour and also help your baby turn into position.
When you finally do go into labour, we wish you a safe and healthy delivery. Let us know how it goes!
BabyGroup says…
This article has been checked by Melinda Rollinson, Doula. A member of the BabyGroup Medical Council.
“Being aware of the signs of labour is an important part of preparing for birth.” Melinda Rollinson.

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