As labour approached each patient may experience the beginning of labour and birth in a variety of ways.
What should I look out for?
Signs of labour
Hello, my name is Rebecca Allison. I’m one of the community midwives here at North Tees and Hartlepool and i’m here today to talk to you about the signs of labour.
So labour can start after 37 weeks of pregnancy, or that’s when you’re classed as full term. It can actually come before then, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.
If you do feel like you’ve gone into labour before 37 weeks, you must ring the hospital immediately for advice.
But full term pregnancy is classed after 37 weeks of pregnancy and there are no real predictable signs of labour – everyone is different. And some people will get some symptoms, and some people will get all of the symptoms.
What I would say, is quite a lot of ladies get what we call the nesting instinct, and that’s where you tend to go on a bit of a crazy and cleaning spree at home, and feel like you need to get everything ready for your baby’s arrival. Quite often in the few days leading up to labor, you can have some sickness and diarrhea, which can be normal.
Also lots of ladies get what we call a show and that’s the passing of the mucus plug from your cervix and it can be quite sticky, snotty, bloodstained in color. And that’s just the opening of your cervix and the mucous blood coming away helping your body to get ready for the labor process.
It’s all very normal, a show can sometimes just happen once, but also it can happen several times as the cervix starts to move up and stretch open.
Also your waters can sometimes go and you don’t have to be in labor for your waters to break. But if you do feel like your waters have gone and it may be a gush of fluid, or a trickle of fluid, either way you must ring the hospital and for advice. Because they will want you to come in and check you and baby over, to make sure everything is okay.
Sometimes your waters break before labour, other times they don’t break until you’re actively advanced in your labour, which we’ll cover in another session.
And finally, the most predictable sign of labour is contractions. So if you’ve heard of braxton-hicks contractions they’re when your uterus tightens and softens off, and this can happen really from any time in the third trimester.
This is just pretend contractions, your body getting ready for labour. When you have full blown contractions, it’s generally tightening across your tummy and that’s your uterine muscles all contracting together.
But sometimes people will experience back ache, or pain in their thighs, and the pains can come and go, and come and go for quite a few days. And that is normal. And then it will start to become more frequent, and that’s the most predictable sign of labour.
This can start before or during labour. It may be a one off or continuous. It is often described as ‘jelly like’ and usually blood stained.
If you are experiencing bright red vaginal loss (similar to if you had cut yourself) then it’s important to call the hospital straight away.
These may start off as ‘Braxton Hicks’ or practice contractions and can start long before labour.
Often contractions stop and start, but if you have been contracting regularly (around 3 to 4 times in every 10 minutes) and simple analgesia at home isn’t helping, then it’s probably time to ring the hospital.
Known as the ‘spontaneous rupture of membranes’. This may happen as a large ‘gush’ of fluid or small ongoing ‘leaks’. The fluid should be clear or ‘straw’ coloured.
It’s a good idea to call the hospital if you think your waters have broken, especially if the colour of the fluid is anything other than clear.
Call your midwife or maternity unit if:
- You have a spontaneous rupture of membranes (waters break)
- Any vaginal bleeding (fresh red)
- If you have constant abdominal pain
- If you have been contracting strongly and regular for a while
- If there is any change to your baby’s pattern of movement