How to know if you are in labour? How to know when should you be admitted to the hospital? How do you know if you should call your hubby to tell him to leave work immediately as the baby is coming? As mothers-to-be, whether first time or not, come close to full term of 37 weeks, every single little sign could be a question: “Is this it?”
First of all, here are some early ‘signs’ of labour. These ‘signs’ could appear up to a couple of months before the actual labour starts. They are not really ‘signs’, which is why i put them in inverted commas, but rather, some changes your body goes through to prepare/practice for the actual day it self. Some changes could be dropping of the tummy, or baby engaging. This can only be confirmed by the gynae when he does the ultrasound scan for you. But along with it, we feel that we can breathe better or that our pelvis is painful and have problems walking. Another common change is the increase in frequency and possibly also the intensity of braxton hicks contractions. Some other websites suggest that diarrhoea or weight loss could also be a change associated with pre-labour but my gynae refutes that.
So what are the actual and confirmed signs of labour that we should look out for and when should we admit ourselves to the hospital?
1. Leaking of water/ amniotic fluid
Water can come out with a gush which is more obvious or a leak or even dripping out which is less obvious. It is usually clear and consistency is just like normal water or urine and not sticky/jelly like discharge. Also, once it is leaking, you cannot do kegel exercises to control it. It will continue to leak. I would suggest to wear a set of white undies without any pantyliner to monitor if there is any colourless liquid dripping out consistently. Once waterbag leaks/bursts, you should admit yourself to the hospital within 3-4 hours. Leaking with pinkish discharge is ok as it means the cervis is dilating at the same time. You should still admit within 3-4 hours. However, if leak becomes green at any time, go to the hospital immediately as it means your baby could be in distress.
Contractions can feel like bad menstrual cramps or stomachache as though you need to clear your bowels. It happens at the lower part of the tummy and can sometimes induce pain on the back as well. Admit to the hospital if your contractions are about 5-7 minutes apart, each about 1 minute long, consistently for about 1 hour. If you have a history of having short labour, or you are afraid you would not be in time for epidural, you should admit as fast as you can and not wait for one hour. We are lucky that we have apps to help us time or contractions and their intervals. Here are 2 recommendations: “Contraction Monitor” or “Contraction Timer”. The question that some have are, towards the end of pregnancy, braxton hicks can be intense and painful too. How to differentiate between the actual contraction and if it’s just braxton hicks? Well, braxton hicks can go away when you change position. Eg from lying down to walking or vice versa. Also, braxton hicks are not regular. For 15 minutes or so it could be at 5 mins apart, then next one is half an hour later. Or it could be 10 min, then 5 min, then 15min etc. Basically non-consistent. It also does not get more and more painful like the actual contractions should.
3. Bloody show
Bloody show is usually a light discharge that is pinkish/reddish/brownish in colour. A show can happen a few days before the actual labour starts. So do wait for contractions or waterbag leaking before you proceed to the hospital. However, if the bleeding is heavy like menses or baby movement is greatly reduced, do go to the hospital to get it checked. It might not be labour but could be other complications.
If you get points 1 and 2, and the indications of the onset of labour are very clear, just head straight to the hospital with your ready-packed hospital bag. However if you are still unsure if it is labour or not, there is no harm in admitting yourself to the hospital to be checked. Once at the hospital, they will check your dilation and contractions and baby’s heartbeat and if it is not time yet for the baby to come, they will just send you back home to wait. At least then you are sure it is a false alarm.
All the best for mummies-to-be out there! 🙂 If you do have any other signs of labour to share from your experiences, do comment below. Above are all the points I gathered from discussions with gynaes, reading from online sources, and speaking to mummies.