September 27, 2019

Signs of Labor | How to Know When It’s Really Time!

FILED IN: Birth, Education

So, you think you know all of the signs of labor. You’ve read the books, scoured all of the resources online, and talked to your doctor.

Now you’re in the final trimester of your pregnancy, though, and it’s all sinking in. Your baby could come any day now! But how will you know if it’s really time to go to the hospital or birthing center? It feels like everything hurts in that last month of pregnancy – so how do you know what’s a real sign of labor, and what’s your body just being grumpy?

I’ve had two pregnancies of my own, and I remember well how anxious I was in those last few weeks! I was (irrationally) afraid of heading to the hospital before it was really time, and causing a huge fuss over a false alarm.

Not to worry, though, friend – I’ve got a few tips for you! I’ve learned a lot from my own pregnancies, as well as being a part of many birth stories now, with my clients. And, while nothing is fool proof, I’ve got a few handy pointers for you to keep in mind during the last weeks of your pregnancy leading up to your baby’s birth.

Signs that labor is near

Your body starts sending little cues that things are gearing up well before it’s time to grab your bag and go. Think of these as “It’s probably time to start packing” signs!

1 – Energy Changes

LOL – I know. You’re tired – you’re always tired. All the time, tired. The last trimester is rough. But, in the last month or so, your body starts to reach its limit, and it’s not unusual to find yourself slowing way down, even moreso than you have been in prior months. On the other hand, you may also find yourself suddenly cleaning out cabinets, or feeling a pressing urge to wash clothes and organize all the things. This is known as “nesting”, and it can be your body’s way of nudging you to get your sh!t together!

2 – Hello breathing, my old friend

When your baby starts dropping and moving more towards the birth canal in preparation for birth, it can lessen some of the pressure on your lungs. This means that you don’t *necessarily* have to yawn to feel like you’re getting enough oxygen, day and night! Yay, oxygen!

3 – Bloody show (sorry to the squeamish, but things are gonna get messy)

Not every mom sees this, but you may notice on one of your (many) trips to the bathroom that a little bit of blood and mucus makes an appearance. This is the so-called “bloody show” that means you’ve lost your mucus plug (which seals your cervix during pregnancy). Don’t panic if you see this – it can still be several days before things get serious – but it’s another sign that your baby is making plans.

Okay, but when is it really time?

Is it a contraction, gas, or my back just finally breaking?

Did my water break, or did my kid kick my bladder, again?

What’s the difference between false labor and the real thing?

I do not want to have this baby in the car, help!

Okay, take a deep breath. No one can really answer these questions for you with 100% certainty. Your best bet is always to call your doctor or medical professional and talk things through if you’re not sure whether or not to head to your birthing location. BUT, let’s talk about a few signs of labor that are *pretty much* sure indications that you need to get moving. Like, now.

1 – Your water breaks

This doesn’t always happen like it does in the movies, folks. Your water may not break on its own at all, and your birth team may have to do that for you. But, if you experience a sudden gush of fluid OR a slow, steady trickle of clear or yellowish fluid…something’s up with that. Make sure to let your birth team know if you notice fluid that is brown, green, or smells bad!

2 – Contractions that don’t let up, and are intensifying

With my second pregnancy, I was convinced that I was going to literally go insane because of prodromal labor. What no one told me was that with each pregnancy after your first, you are more likely to experience prodromal, or “false” labor. This meant that I was constantly experiencing waves of contractions that would just suddenly stop after a few minutes or an hour! By the end of my pregnancy, I’d more or less resigned myself to the possibility of having my baby in the car, because I was sure I’d think the “real thing” was yet another false alarm.

Unfortunately, prodromal labor feels pretty much exactly like the real thing, with the exception that it stops, and doesn’t usually intensify. So, the only real way to tell the difference is to wait it out!

As far as true signs of labor go, “go-time” contractions should be progressing, one way or the other. For my first pregnancy, the contractions never really got “regular” – they just got more intense, and didn’t stop.

If you’re not sure whether your contractions are serious or not, time them and rate them on an intensity scale. If they get steadily closer together, and/or are ramping up in intensity…you gotta move, mama.

3 – The urge to, erm…”go”

As far as signs of labor go, this one’s a biggie. Hopefully you’ll already be at your birthing location by the time you feel this one–if at all–but just know that your baby can put pressure on all kinds of things in there as their arrival becomes imminent. If you feel the urge to have a bowel movement or to push, things are pretty close!

I hope this list of tips on recognizing the signs of labor has been helpful! I’d love to document the chaos and joy and emotion of your baby’s birth story with you – so CLICK HERE to find out more about my birth story sessions, and get in touch!

BONUS: You can use the below graphic to save or Pin these tips for later!

Real Vs False Labor Graphic

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