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Signs of Labour (Childbirth)

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Signs of Labour
Labour is also known as childbirth or delivery. It is the process of giving birth to a baby after about nine (9) months of pregnancy. This process basically consist of the dilation and effacement of the cervix to the actual delivery of the child through the orifice of the bony girdle of the pelvis via the reproductive tract or vagina down to the expulsion of the afterbirth (placenta) and the mucus membranes.

As a pregnant woman in the third trimester, the day you have been waiting for is at hand. But you just don’t know what to expect or what to look out for. Here we will discuss some of the most comprehensive signs of labour (childbirth).
 
Though it is important to note that there are no definite markers or ways to knowing how a woman’s pregnancy and delivery process will turn out, it is just normal to be concerned, worried and be careful about the entire process. Therefore, we have enumerated some well pronounced signs of labour (childbirth). These signs ranges from the earliest signs to the actual labour itself. These signs or experiences are exactly what you should be looking out for when you baby is on his/ her way. Though there may be some variations from one woman to another. The following are the most common signs of labour.


  • Diarrhoea (loose bowels): just at the very beginning of labour, certain hormones such as the prostaglandins which help the uterus to contract are released into the blood. These hormones cause the muscles to become loosened and increases intestinal motility which causes diarrhoea or stool-like bowel movement. This the body does at the early stages of labour to clear out the digestive tracts (bowel) just before things starts to get real. Therefore, the body tends be make way for the baby. However, some women don’t experience this before labour, they experience it during labour.
  • Nausea: beside the nausea that normally comes in the very first few weeks of the first (1st) trimester of pregnancy, some women feels nauseated as labour approaches. Though, not all women experience this signs, many actually do when things are starting to get really real or serious.
  • Frequent urge to urinate: with the due date getting closer, all grown up foetus (baby) position him/ herself properly in the pelvis. Base on this, the baby presses down on the urinary bladder, reducing the size thereby increasing the pressure within. Normally, a pregnant woman urinates frequently but at this stage (final weeks in the third trimester), the urge to urinate or visit the bathroom increases as a result of the reduced urinary bladder volume. Pregnant women are therefore advised to drink water more regularly to stay hydrated.
  • Heartburn relief: it is a well known fact that most heavily pregnant women normally feel heartburn. This of course is because the baby pushes up on the stomach and forces the stomach (gastric) acid into the trachea (wind pipe), thereby causing heartburn. However, during the final weeks of pregnancy, the baby drop down and properly settle or position him/ herself in the pelvis readying for birth. This movement eases up the stomach from that pressure and thereby relief the heartburn it caused.
  • The nipples leaks: right from the third or final trimester of pregnancy, most women experience slight leak from their nipples. But during the final weeks just before delivery, the leaks become more pronounced and noticeable. In readiness for the arrival of the baby, the nutrient rich, immunoglobulin packed or empowered milk called colostrums starts to leak from the nipples. This milk is meant to nourish and boost the baby’s immunity just after birth.
  • Feel swollen: most women generally feel swollen in different parts of their body during pregnancy. This is called pregnancy oedema. However, following the final weeks of pregnancy the baby drops down into the pelvis, this movement increases blood volume. This increases the pressure around the pelvis and the vagina, thereby making the vagina to appear or feel swollen.
  • Burst of energy (nesting instinct): it is just normal for a pregnant woman in her third trimester to be fatigued and extremely tired out. But most women, following the final weeks of delivery feels this sudden burst of energy. They feel renewed, energized or even feel like they have gone back in time. They suddenly have this strong feeling or desire to cook, clean and organize the house. This desire is called the “nesting instinct”. It is a feeling of impulse, a strong urgency to get things done, arrange baby cloths, baby crib and set few things in motion before the baby arrives.
  • Change in movement: for pregnant women who are in their third trimester, as the baby drops down and settle down on the pelvis, the pelvis (pelvic girdle) widens in preparation for birth. This change in the woman’s body affects the way and pattern of her movement. If the movement of a woman in the final weeks of her third trimester of pregnancy changes, it could be a sign of labour.
  • Braxton Hicks: these are practice or preliminary contractions that often start early in the third (3rd) trimester of pregnancy. These Braxton Hicks are simple painless tightening sensation of the uterus that signifies that the uterus is gearing up for labour. Braxton Hicks feels differently for different women. For some women it feels like pounding, for others it is stabbing, for most it feels like tightening, and for few women it is similar to menstrual cramps. This experience generally starts small and then increase in strength and frequency as labour approaches.
  • Back pain: for women who are in their late third (3rd), as labour approaches they will begin to experience some form of crampy feeling and pain like sensation at their lower back. This is because the baby is turning to the right position for birth and/ or labour. As the baby begins to turn, at different times the baby lie at different unusual position in the uterus pressing against the spine and causing contractions that feels like severe rhythmic back pain. This pain can last for few days and sometimes require just some recommended dose of analgesics.
  • Lightening: for women in the last few weeks of their third trimester of pregnancy, after the baby has fully turned. The baby faces down now and starts to move down properly into the orifice of the pelvic girdle. The baby is said to have dropped, also known as dropping. This dropping down into the pelvis in readiness to come out is medically referred to as lightening. This normally occurs about two weeks before labour for first pregnancies, while for others it may occur right before labour. As the baby drops, breathing becomes easier since there is less pressure on the diaphragm from underneath. However, this lightening puts more pressure on the woman’s pelvis and bladder which as discussed earlier result in frequent urination (bathroom visits).
  • Dilation and effacement of the cervix: following the last weeks of the third trimester of pregnancy, certain changes in the connective tissues of the cervix occurs. These changes are the dilation and effacement of the cervix. This normally occurs in preparation for birth. Dilation is the widening or opening of the cervix, while effacement is the thinning of the cervix. These are very effective signs of labour, since dilation and effacement of the cervix must certainly occur before labour. This process normally takes place days or weeks before labour, and the extent to which a woman’s pelvis has dilated is basically measured by the health care provider (doctor or nurse).
  • Show (lose your mucus plug): normally at the onset of pregnancy, a mucus plug covers the cervix to protect the pregnancy. In women that are in the last weeks of their third trimester of pregnancy, as the baby drops to the pelvis dilation and effacement occurs. These processes lead to the widening and thinning of the cervix. The dilation of the cervix in addition to the pressure created by the baby dropping into the pelvis causes the mucus plug covering the cervix to be expelled. This is followed by a pink, brownish or slightly bloody vaginal discharge called “show” or “bloody show”. This show is a known sign of labour. However, for some women the mucus plug is not expelled until the beginning of labour.
  • Your water breaks: this is about one of the final signs of labour for most women. During pregnancy, a fluid called the amniotic fluid surrounds and protects the foetus. This fluid is enclosed within a sac called the amniotic sac and it often serve as a shock absorber amongst many other functions for the foetus. Days before labour, the sac ruptures and leaks this fluid through the vagina. This leaking of water (amniotic fluid) through the vagina is referred to as “water breaks” or medically as referred to as spontaneous rupture of the membranes (SROM). This leak comes out as a trickle or gush, it depends on how much amniotic fluid the woman have or whether it is the “fore water” (water at the front of the head) or the fluid behind. Usually, this is not as dramatic as it is portrayed in movies, for it can break at any time. During labour, or childbirth, or it may be broken manually by a midwife to help initiate the process of labour.
  • Contractions: women at the final days of their pregnancy experiences real contractions. Beyond those Braxton Hicks, those painless tightening sensations of the uterus (false contractions), beyond all these the real labour contractions begin. These contractions normally start weak (like menstrual pain) and then grow in intensity and frequency. The real contractions come with a unique pattern. They come about 5 to 10 minutes apart and lasting between 30 seconds to 1 minute. For some women, these contractions usually start in the back and then move around to the front. When the intensity of these contractions becomes stronger and seems to last longer, when you seems to struggle to talk through the contractions or seems to catch or hold your breath in order get through the pain. The contractions now come more frequently. That is a sign that the real deal has started. Call your doctor, call your midwife, and head straight to the hospital.

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