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10 useful ways to tell that you’re in Labour

Dr. Lala .A.

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Either you are a pregnant woman or someone close to you is pregnant, and you’re wondering how you will know when labour is imminent. Below is a list of changes that happens to your body when labour is close.
PRE-LABOR: ONE TO FOUR WEEKS BEFORE LABOR
1. Your baby begins to descend into your pelvis (drops)
A few weeks before labour begins, your baby will start to descend into your pelvis. This process is called lightening. In subsequent pregnancies, lightening usually does not occur until labour has fully begun. Your baby descends into your pelvis head down.

2. Your cervix dilates and effaces
The cervix is the narrow, lower part of the womb where the baby passes through to the vagina. Your cervix opens up (dilatation) and thins out (effacement). At your weekly check-ups, your doctor may measure and track dilation and effacement. Everyone progresses differently, so don’t be discouraged if you’re dilating slowly.

3. You feel more cramps and increased back pain
This occurs especially after the first pregnancy. You may feel some pain in your groin and the lower part of your back. This happens because your muscles and joints are stretching and shifting in preparation for birth.

4. Your joints feel looser
Throughout your pregnancy, the hormone relaxin has made all of your ligaments soften and loosen (it’s also responsible for your bouts of clumsiness this past trimester). Before you go into labor, you may notice your joints are relaxed. This is nature’s way of opening up your pelvis for your baby to make his or her way into the world.

5. You have diarrhoea
Just as the muscles in your uterus are relaxing in preparation for birth, so are other muscles in your body including those in your rectum (the final part of the large intestine where faeces is stored). This can lead to loose bowel movements. Though annoying, this is normal; stay hydrated and remember it’s a good sign.

6. You stop gaining weight (or may even lose weight)
Weight gain tends to level off at the very end of pregnancy. Some moms-to-be even lose a couple of kg. This is normal and won’t affect your baby’s birthweight. You’re probably losing weight due to lower levels of amniotic fluid and more frequent urination.

7. You feel extra-tired…or you have an urge to rest
Between the active bladder and the exhaustion, sometimes you can feel really tired. Your super-sized belly, along with the smooshed bladder, can make it hard (even impossible) to get a good night’s sleep during the last days and weeks of pregnancy. Pile on those pillows and take naps during the day if you can. Some moms however, get a burst of energy as birth-day nears, and can’t resist the compelling urge to clean and organize everything in sight. That’s okay, as long as you don’t overdo it.

EARLY LABOR: THE HOURS BEFORE LABOR STARTS
8. Your vaginal discharge changes color and consistency
In the last days before labour, you’ll notice an increased and/or thickened vaginal discharge. You may also notice the loss of your mucous plug; the cork sealing off your uterus from the outside world. This thickened, pinkish discharge is also called the bloody show and is a good indication that labor is imminent, though without regular contractions or dilation of 3-4 cm, labor could still be a few days away.

9. You feel stronger, more frequent contractions
Contractions are an early sign of active labor, sometimes these contractions may be Braxton-Hicks, and not actually real labour.
Signs of active labour include;
Contractions get stronger instead of easing up
Contractions don’t go away regardless of change in position
The contraction pain starts in your lower back and moves to your lower abdomen, and possibly your legs
Contractions get more frequent and more painful, and sometimes fall into a regular pattern

10. Your water (amniotic fluid) breaks.
This happens in less than 15% of births before real labour begins. It is one of the final signs of labour. When your waters break, the fluid-filled amniotic sac, which protects and cushions your baby in your womb (uterus), tears. The amniotic fluid then leaks out via your cervix and vagina.
If you think you are going into labour, call your doctor or mid-wife as they’ll advise you on what to do. Ensure you have the companionship and support of your partner to help ease the pain.
WISH YOU A SAFE AND PLEASANT DELIVERY.

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Dr. Lala .A. is a graduate of University of Ilorin who also holds a Diploma in Computer Engineering. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who aspires to be a plastic surgeon involved in creating awareness about women's rights and responsibilities and also training would be surgeons. She is a proud member of various reputable bodies including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI). She loves to read, write, sleep and play the drums in her spare time.