While predicting exactly when the Big L is going to gatecrash your final trimester is pretty much impossible, there are more sure signs that’ll give you a good idea when labour is actually happening. Check out the top five below.
Defined as the descent of the baby into the pelvis, ‘lightening’ can happen as early as two to four weeks prior to labour. It’s typically accompanied by increased frequency of urination, as well as pelvic and rectal pressure.
Loss of the mucus plug
The “plug” is actually a glob of thick mucus expelled through the cervical canal and vagina – anytime from one to two weeks or just hours prior to labour itself. It can also be tinged with blood; hence the alternate reference ‘bloody show’.
Also known as ‘false contractions’, Braxton Hicks contractions often start three to four weeks or more before delivery. They’ll feel like a mild tightness or cramping in the lower abdomen, lasting a few seconds. Sadly, they’re not much like actual contractions, but a good indication that your body is prepping for labour.
The amniotic fluid sac that surrounds the baby, spontaneously ruptures before labour – for some women; for others this will naturally happen after contractions commence, or the sac will need to be broken by the midwife or doctor if the start of labour has been confirmed. When it does happen, it can either occur in one momentous gush, or a slow trickle.
This is, of course, the most obvious of labour signs, but it’s also one of those arcane aspects of pregnancy/womanhood that you can never adequately describe unless you’ve gone through it. The only helpful explanation is that, unlike false contractions, the real McCoy will progress in intensity, frequency and duration. Robert H. Hayashi, M.D., director and professor of maternal-foetal medicine at the University of Michigan says that the simplest distinction between true contractions and false labour pains is this: “True contractions cause such significant discomfort in the low back or abdomen that you can’t talk.” (Robert H. Hayashi, M.D does not endorse any medicines).
Obviously, every pregnancy is different; you might experience all of these signs, one or none! The best course of action is to relax, and listen to what your body (and baby) is telling you.