Before I had Baby Boo, this seemed like a no-brainer. You reach 40 weeks, your waters break and hey presto, you give birth. No big questions marks there. But, like most things in life, there’s a difference between theory and practice. As any mum will tell you, the final stage of pregnancy is filled with odd feelings and peculiar sensations and it’s often difficult to tell what’s just a random pain or puddle and when it’s action time. Fortunately, there are a few common signs of labour to look out for, and I caught up with Dru Campbell, midwife at Health Bay Polyclinic in Dubai to get the lowdown.
Sign baby is on the way #1: You have a ‘show’
As labour approaches, you may have what’s called a ‘show’, which is where the mucus plug [a discharge that sits within the cervix in pregnancy] begins to move and change. Look out for brown, pink or reddish mucus, which may come out all at once, or in small amounts over a few days. While it is a sign that things are starting to happen, a show isn’t necessarily an indication of active labour, so you don’t need to rush straight to the hospital. Of course, if there is any fresh bleeding then it’s important to see your doctor straight away, because this could be a sign that the placenta is bleeding.
Sign baby is on the way #2: Backache and period-like pains
Cramps and backache are usually signs of the effacement phase, which is where the cervix starts to thin out and move as it prepares for delivery. It often occurs before the onset of contractions and is an early indication that the process has begun. Sometimes expectant mums mistake this phase for active labour, but it can take days before the cervix is fully effaced. On average, in active labour (from 4cm) the cervix will dilate between a half and one centimeter per hour. Although everyone is different and some women will dilate quicker than this.
Sign baby is on the way #3: Diarrhea and nausea
Hormonal changes close to labour cause the muscles throughout your body to soften. This includes the muscles that regulate bowel movements. For this reason, you may experience loose stools. Just make sure you drink plenty of water during this period to avoid becoming dehydrated. You may also start to feel nauseous. This is a similar feeling to the early stages of pregnancy, when you may have experienced morning sickness, and is caused by changes with pregnancy hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, thyroid stimulation hormone and relaxin. Some experts suggest that this occurs to clear the bowel naturally prior to labour.
Sign baby is on the way #4: Your waters breaking
We often see this in movies and it’s almost always shown as very dramatic, but while it can happen as one big gush, it can also happen as a slow trickle. You might see a wet patch or feel a trickle and what I normally recommend is to put on a maternity sanitary pad. If after an hour it’s still damp then you should go to hospital for a check up, because research shows that after the waters break, there is around 24 hours before infection can start setting in. Once there, the midwifery staff will check you and your baby and the colour of the water. If everything remains low risk and there are no regular contractions, you may be sent home and given a time to return within the next 24 hours. However, one thing to note is that it is vital that you call the hospital straight way if you notice that your waters are blood stained or green, yellow or brown in colour. This can indicate that the baby has passed meconium, the substance which lines their gut, and can be a sign of that they have been distressed.
Sign baby is on the way #5: Contractions start
One of the most important things about contractions is that every woman feels them differently. However, they are often described as being a lot like intense period pains and as labour progresses they become stronger and longer. You don’t need to rush to the hospital as soon as they start. I usually say that once the contractions are coming every five minutes and lasting for one minute, that’s a good sign that the cervix is really starting to open up.
For more information and advice, email Dru Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.