Recognising the Early Signs of Labour: Part I

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Are you having contractions? Did your water break? Get acquainted with the early signs of labour.

WORDS ANNA FERNANDEZ

 

Early labour may be a good time to try out different positions and breathing techniques to see if they can help you endure your labour pains. It will also be beneficial if you try to remain calm and relaxed, so your body can release the hormone oxytocin, which is needed to bring on contractions in a timely manner, allowing labour to progress.

 

Pelvic Pressure

If this is your first pregnancy, you may experience what is known as “lightening” a few weeks before labour begins. Your baby will start to descend into your pelvis. For future births, this “lightening” doesn't usually happen until you’re truly in labour. You’ll have even more difficulty walking around than you have been and you may be taking very frequent bathroom breaks just like you did during your first trimester because the baby’s head is pushing down on your bladder.

 

Physical Changes

Joints become looser

Before you go into labour, you may notice your joints feeling a bit looser. The hormone relaxin is responsible for this. It relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and stretches your muscles.

 

 

Relaxing also promotes the rupture of the membranes

surrounding the foetus, and causes the opening and softening

of the cervix and vagina in preparation for childbirth.

 

 

Dr Ng Kai Lyn, associate consultant at National University Hospital’s Women’s Centre says, “In the weeks leading up to your delivery, you will experience a softening of the pelvic ligaments to allow for a roomier pelvis. This may manifest as an aching sensation and should not be a cause of alarm as it is part of your body’s natural preparation for the arrival of your baby.”

 

Nipples leak

It’s not just during breastfeeding that nipples can leak – it can occur throughout your final trimester. It will probably be most noticeable during the last few weeks before your baby arrives. The milk you’re leaking is colostrum, a nutrient-rich liquid that will protect newborns from bacteria and viruses until your body produces proper milk a couple of days after delivery.

 

Cervix starts to expand

The first stage of labour is when contractions result in an expansion of the cervix, which is the neck of your womb (uterus). In the days and weeks before delivery, changes in the connective tissue of your cervix result in it softening and eventually thinning and widening, or dilating.

 

The first changes in dilation are gradual. Pregnant women can dilate up to three centimetres and remain at that dilation for several weeks with no further indication of labour. However, when active labour begins, dilation typically speeds up.

 

 

By the end of this stage, your cervix will be fully dilated, and open

to about 1O centimetres in diameter.

 

 

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