Labour, the beautiful culmination of a nine-month journey, signifies the moment when your baby prepares to greet the world. This involves your uterus contracting rhythmically, propelling the baby downwards, while the cervix – the gateway to the uterus – widens to facilitate the baby’s exit.
Obstetrician Dr. Ramya Sadaram, lists Signs Your Baby’s Arrival is Imminent:
Contractions or tightening
These are the hallmark signs of labour. When you experience a contraction, your uterus tightens and then relaxes. Some individuals may describe contractions as intense period pains. The purpose of contractions is to push your baby downward and facilitate the opening of the cervix, preparing for the birth process.
Throughout your pregnancy, especially towards the end, you may have encountered contractions known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These tightenings are typically painless.
True Contractions: Intensify over time and become more frequent. Placing a hand on your belly, you’ll feel it harden as muscles contract, and soften when they relax.
Braxton Hicks Contractions (False Pains): More uncomfortable than painful, these ‘practice contractions’ are irregular and don’t intensify. They offer an opportunity to practice breathing exercises learned in childbirth classes. They start as early as the second trimester but are more frequent during the third.
Here are the characteristics of false pains:
- Irregular intensity
- Infrequent occurrence
- Unpredictable timing
- Lack of rhythm
Braxton Hicks contractions are typically more uncomfortable than painful, although some women may experience pain. These contractions, often referred to as false pains, do not escalate in intensity or frequency. Instead, they gradually diminish and eventually disappear altogether.
During pregnancy, a mucus plug seals your cervix. As labour approaches, this plug may dislodge, leading to a pinkish discharge called a ‘show’. The show can appear as a single blob or in several pieces. Its pink colour is due to the presence of a small amount of blood.
The occurrence of a show signifies the onset of labour. However, it is important to note that if you experience heavy bleeding, it is crucial to seek immediate consultation with your gynaecologist, as this could indicate a potential complication.
An aching lower back, radiating down to the legs, often signals the onset of labour. This pain persists even when changing positions. Additionally, an individual may experience an increase in mild cramps that resemble a tightening or hardening sensation in the uterus.
If your amniotic sac ruptures naturally, you may perceive either a gradual trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that cannot be controlled. While it is possible for your waters to break before arriving at the hospital, it is more common for this to occur during labour.
If you encounter the following indications, it is possible that your waters have broken:
- A sensation of popping, followed by a gush or trickle of fluid.
- Unusual dampness in your underwear that does not have a urine-like smell.
- Uncontrolled leakage of fluid, whether in small or large amounts
The occurrence of diarrhoea or loose stools can indicate the onset of labour due to the presence of prostaglandins, a group of hormones. This natural bodily process aids in the efficient contraction of the uterus by facilitating bowel emptying.
If your diarrhoea is of a mild nature, there is likely no cause for concern. However, if accompanied by a fever, intense stomach cramping, or persisting for more than a day or two, it is advisable to seek consultation with your gynaecologist.
When to go to the hospital and consult your gynaecologist?
- Regular Contractions: Consistent and intensifying contractions signal it’s time.
- Water Breaking: Especially if the fluid is greenish-yellow and has an unpleasant odour.
- Decreased Fetal Movement: A sudden decrease in your baby’s activity necessitates a check-up.
- Baby’s Position Concerns: If you suspect an unusual position like breech, seek evaluation.
- Other Concerning Symptoms: Heavy bleeding, fever, severe headaches, vision changes, or sudden swelling are red flags.
Tips for a Smoother Normal Vaginal Delivery:
- Stay active and Keep moving instead of staying confined to bed; move around and take walks.
- Stay hydrated by sipping water regularly.
- Use breathing techniques over screaming. Avoid screaming or shouting; instead, practice breathing and relaxation techniques.
- Try to maintain an upright position during labour, as it can increase the available space in the pelvis by approximately 28-30%.
- Gentle massages, especially on the spine, offer comfort.
- Regularly empty your bladder.