First thing about labor is you never know when it will happen. This can be a scary thought and the best you can do to put yourself at ease is to prepare for what will happen and what steps to take when it happens.
Be prepared for the fact that labor can start days and even sometimes weeks before you deliver, and as you are coming closer to terminus you might notice a few early labor signs. These may include:
Braxton Hicks contractions
These are the contractions which signal that your cervix is thinning and widening, if these are intense and frequent it might be a sign of pre-labor. Some women compare the feeling to menstrual cramps.
The baby drops
This might start a few weeks before you due date and is referred to as “lightning”, it feels like a small pressure just below you ribcage, and you might find it easier to breathe. This means that the baby has now moved to the lower part of you pelvis.
Changes in the cervix
In the last weeks of the pregnancy you will start to feel changes in the connective tissue of your cervix, as it prepares to soften and dilate. Have your doctor of doula make a vaginal exam, to see if everything is progressing normally. If you have given birth before your cervix will be more prone to dilate a centimeter or two before labor starts. If this is your first time remember even at the 40th week, one centimeter of dilation does not necessarily means you are heading towards labor.
Contractions of increasing intensity
These are set apart from Braxton hicks contractions by being much longer, more painful and come at smaller intervals. These are the ones that cause your cervix to dilate.
Passing the mucus plug
The plug which have closed of your cervical canal doing the pregnancy may start to pass as you cervix begins to efface or dilate. I may come out all at once or as increased discharge, over a few days. The mucus is pink, brownish or blood red.
This happens, when the amniotic sac finally breaks and all the liquid inside it start to leak from your vagina. Like the mucus plug, it can happen all at once or over a small amount of time. This is a definite sign of labor starting and it is at this point you should seek medical attention.
Calling the doctor
Some of these pre-labor signs are also signs that it is time to call your doctor. If you are in doubt about feeling Baxton Hicks contractions or labor contractions, seeking medical assistance is advised, as it could be a sign of delivering is right around the corner. The definite sign you should call is, as mentioned in the paragraph above, when your water breaks. At that stage medical attention is a must.