Advice to help you recognise the early signs of the onset of labour during pregnancy with information on imminent birth and delivery..
Labour is the process through which your baby will be born. For most women this happens when they are around 40 weeks pregnant, but anything from 37 weeks to 42 weeks is considered as being normal.
With a first baby, from the first signs of labour until the baby is born can quite easily be a full 24 hours. This is because labour tends to start gradually allowing your baby time to adjust to what is happening.
If you have already experienced labour the womb seems to work differently. The process of labour may still begin gradually but you will usually deliver your baby much more quickly.
Signs of the onset of labour:
- A show - This is the mucousy plug that sits in the neck of the womb. As the neck of the womb begins to open this mucus may be dislodged. The mucus may be clear, slightly brown or pink. You may notice some streaks of blood. This is normal. If there is more than just a few streaks of blood, if there is bleeding without mucous or if your baby has not been moving please contact a midwife to make sure things are OK. Otherwise just wait and see. A show can actually happen a few weeks before you actually go into labour so it may or may not be a sign.
- Waters breaking - Your waters are the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby. They can break before you go into labour or during the labour process. When they do break you will be aware of leaking fluid all at once or keep leaking small amounts. Some women feel a popping sensation.
Most women go into labour when their waters break after 37 weeks, but it can take a day or two. You will need to contact your midwife or the delivery suite to let them know what is happening. If you do not go into labour yourself then your labour may be induced because once the waters have broken there is a small risk of infection to your baby which increases with time.
- Contractions - This is the muscle of your womb tightening, pulling up on your cervix and pushing down on your baby. At first you may be aware of just some discomfort or period type pain that comes and goes. As time goes on you will become more aware of definite contractions, usually felt low down in the front of your abdomen or in your back. They will become longer and stronger and more intense.
Once your contractions are lasting about 45 seconds to a minute they will probably not go away. Up until this time they can stop for a number of hours or days and then come back again. Do not worry if this happens. You will start again where you left off. Once the cervix has begun to open it does not close again.
- The stages of labour - We divide labour into three stages
- Stage 1 - From the time your contractions become regularly and strong until the cervix has moved out of the way which means you are dilated to 10cms.
- Stage 2 - From the time the cervix is fully dilated until the time the baby is born.
- Stage 3 - From the birth of the baby until the delivery of the after birth or the placenta and membranes.
Every labour is different. No one can predict for you how things will go, but there are lots of things that can help you on the day.