Relaxin

10 Signs Labor Is Near

In Labor

If you’re expecting your first baby, it’s not uncommon to wonder how and if you will know when labor is coming. We’ve all seen the images of women in movies whose water breaks right in the middle of a very important and public moment, followed by a mad dash to the hospital to beat the baby’s arrival. In reality though, the start of labor is a much more progressive and likely less dramatic event. Here are a few signs to watch for that may indicate your body is gearing up for labor. 

  1. Your baby drops: The technical term for baby dropping lower into the pelvis in preparation for birth is lightening. Lightening may occur several weeks before your baby arrives or may not happen until you are in active labor. For some women, they can see a noticeable difference in the location of their bump when they look in the mirror while for others it may be more subtle. When lightening occurs, you will likely feel some added pressure on your bladder and pubic area and you may notice you are using the bathroom as frequently as you did in the first trimester. The good news is, your diaphragm will get some relief and you may be able to breathe a bit easier as the drop will free up some space around your chest.
  2. Nesting: Something about the impending arrival of baby tends to send moms into an organizational frenzy. You may think it’s just your Type A personality but there is actually a very powerful instinct that takes over in those final weeks before baby arrives. If you’re on your knees cleaning the baseboards and organizing baby’s socks by color according to the rainbow, don’t worry, this is completely normal. Just be careful not to overdo it as your body needs rest before the big day.
  3. Exhaustion: When you’re not experiencing a surge of energy for alphabetizing your spice rack, you may be feeling extra exhausted in those final weeks before labor begins. The final stage of pregnancy can be uncomfortable making it difficult to sleep, tougher to move around and leaving you feeling like you’ve run a marathon when you’ve only climbed a flight of stairs. 
  4. Increasing Cramping and Back Pain: You may notice in the final weeks of pregnancy that you are having more cramping and lower backaches than usual. As baby is preparing to make his debut, your body is getting into gear and a lot is happening in that general region to help position baby for birth. Muscles are stretching and joints are loosening due to the release of the hormone relaxin which allows your pelvis to expand for childbirth. Don’t be alarmed by these aches and pains and instead take it as a sign to get off your feet and rest for a bit. If the cramping or pain is severe or is accompanied by bleeding, call your provider to be seen. 
  5. Your weight plateaus: Up until this point, you’ve been consistently gaining as your baby grows to his or her birth weight. In the weeks before labor begins, you might find that you stop gaining weight and may even lose a pound of two. This is nothing to be alarmed by and is actually quite normal in the home stretch.
  6. Dilation and Effacement: Dilation refers to the opening of your cervix while effacement is the measurement of how thinned out it is. As baby puts pressure on your pelvic region and your uterus contacts in preparation for delivery, your cervix will become dilated and effaced. Dilation and effacement can be measured by your provider if you choose to have internal exams leading up to your delivery. The tricky part is that you can be a few centimeters dilated and a percentage effaced for weeks before your delivery. The good news is that it does indicate that labor is coming in the near future and your body is working hard to prepare. Conversely, don’t be discourage if you are not dilated or effaced at your visit as this process can happen at a different point for every woman. 
  7. Feeling loose: Unfortunately, your pelvic muscles and ligaments aren’t the only area of your body affected by the hormone relaxin. Consequently, you may experience other side effects of the release of this hormone into your body such as diarrhea and clumsiness. The good news is that these not so desireable side effects of the increased relaxin levels in your system are a good indication that your body is getting ready for baby!
  8. More frequent Braxton Hicks contractions: Braxton Hicks contractions or prodromal labor, are practice contractions that are usually felt from mid-pregnancy on. In the final weeks of pregnancy, you may notice that you are having more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions that feel more intense than usual. If the contractions are happening closer together, increasing in intensity, lasting a minute or more or seem to fall into a rhythmic pattern, it is likely labor has begun. Call your provider to find out what the next steps are and when you should come in. 
  9. Mucus plug loss: As your cervix begins to soften in preparation for birth, you may experience some mucus discharge. The mucus will be thick and white and may be streaked with blood and dispel gradually or in one clump. This is considered the loss of your mucus plug. The mucus plug is considered the seal to the uterus and its dislodging indicates labor is near.
  10. Your water breaks: The rupture of the amniotic sac is actually much rarer than Hollywood would lead you to believe. Approximately only 15 percent of women experience their water breaking before they are in active labor. Your water breaking may feel like a slow trickle or one gush of fluid but is not usually as dramatic as we see in the movies. If your amniotic sac ruptures, call your provider.

The last month of pregnancy can often feel like an eternity with your big bump, aching back, tired feet and lack of sleep. Try as best you can to use these weeks to rest up for the big task ahead of childbirth. Your baby and body are hard at work preparing for the big day that will be here before you know it. 

Remember also that all women experience the above symptoms at different times and to different degrees, so try not to compare yourself to other pregnant mamas or feel concerned if you don’t match up. Your baby will come when she’s good and ready and it will be one of the greatest moments of your life!

For questions about labor, natural birth and other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Excerpt: Ten telltale signs labor is on it’s way!

Five Things to Expect During Your Postpartum Recovery

As mothers and mothers to be, we typically spend a great deal of time planning and preparing for our child’s birth. We read books, take prenatal classes, write birth plans, pack bags, wash, fold and organize baby laundry and so much more in preparation for the big day. Very few of us however, give much thought to what the postpartum period will be like for OUR bodies. Consumed with the excitement of our baby to be, we may forget that once we bring home our bundle of joy we too will need care, rest and healing as we recover from the amazing feat of giving birth. Here are 5 things to expect from your postpartum recovery.

  1. Heavy bleeding: As your body sheds the uterine lining and also bleeds from where the placenta was attached, you will experience heavy bleeding known as lochia. You may see blood clots in this bleeding and it will likely appear bright red at first. The intensity of the bleeding should subside with time and gradually turn to spotting before it stops. Typically, this should last approximately 2-6 weeks after you give birth. To prepare, stock up on heavy duty overnight strength sanitary pads, mesh panties and even adult diapers can be a great option. This applies whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section.
  2. Some pain and discomfort: Take a moment to consider what an incredible thing it is that your body is going to birth a 6-10 pound baby. With this incredible miracle comes hard work and its fair share of aches and pains. Whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, you can expect to experience some cramping, soreness, muscle aches and joint pains. With a vaginal delivery you may also experience some burning and soreness of the perineum and with a C-section, pain at the incision site and abdominal pain as you recover from major surgery.
  3. Hormonal side effects: As your body seeks to adjust hormonally after giving birth, you will likely experience a few unpleasant side effects. These may include fluctuating emotions and weepiness, hot flashes, night sweats and chills, and continued feelings of clumsiness from the production of the hormone relaxin. Give yourself some grace during this period as you may not feel like yourself despite your excitement over your new baby. If you are concerned that the baby blues may be developing into something more serious like postpartum depression, contact your midwife, doctor or a counselor for support. There are many wonderful resources available for women suffering from postpartum depression. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  4. Breast changes: As your milk comes in after baby is born, you may experience some engorgement and sore nipples and breasts as your supply adjusts to meet baby’s needs. You may also notice that your nipples appear darker. If you are recovering from a C-section, breastfeeding can initially be more challenging due to pain from your surgery and having to find a position that is comfortable for you and your newborn while you heal. Fear not though, it will get easier with time and your milk supply will adjust as you and your baby find your rhythm. Consider having nipple pads on hand for leaking breasts, cooling pads or ice packs for sore breasts and a nipple cream for aching and cracking nipples. Be sure to signup for our next Pumptalk 101 class if you have extra questions or would like some more suggestions.
  5. Constipation, incontinence, and frequent trips to the bathroom: Depending on how you delivered and your own personal recovery, you may experience a period of constipation following giving birth and/or urinary or fecal incontinence. A vaginal delivery can cause temporary nerve damage around the bladder making it more difficult to sense when you need to go to the bathroom. You may also have weakened bladder muscles, hemorrhoids and though less common, tears to the anal sphincter causing fecal leakage. Conversely, you may also experience constipation due to the slowing of your metabolism and digestive tract. Talk to your doctor or midwife for effective ways to manage these various side effects.

It’s not uncommon for the postpartum period to be filled with excitement, exhaustion, trepidation and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Make sure that amidst all the emotions and adjustments, you allow time for your own care and recovery. Your body has just undergone the incredible journey of childbirth and needs time to rest and heal so that you can focus on caring for your new, beautiful baby.