Spot the signs of labour now.
WORDS ANNA FERNANDEZ
Wondering what to expect when labour begins? Read on.
More Frequent Contractions
You will experience more frequent and intense Braxton Hicks contractions, which can signal pre-labour. Some women experience persistent lower back pain and menstrual-like cramps during this time.
Braxton Hicks and labour contractions can be easily differentiated. Dr Christopher Ng, medical director at GynaeMD Women's & Rejuvenation Clinic at Camden Medical Centre explains, “Braxton Hicks contractions can occur at any time causing discomfort in your lower abdomen and groin. They usually resolve after resting. In true labour, the contractions increase in frequency and intensity as time passes.”
Unlike Braxton-Hicks contractions, labour contractions become increasingly longer,
more intense, and more frequent as they cause your cervix to dilate.
You’ll feel their pinch as the muscles in your uterus tighten in preparation for delivery.
Loss of Your Mucus Plug
In the last days before labour, you’ll see increased or thickened vaginal discharge. You may also notice the loss of your mucus plug, which has sealed off your cervical canal throughout your pregnancy. This thick, pinkish discharge can come out in one lump or gradually over a few days. Also called a bloody show, it is a good indication that labour is imminent, especially when accompanied by contractions and dilation of three to four centimetres. According to Dr Ng Kai Lyn, however, some women may not even notice its passage and labour can begin soon after the mucus plug is discharged or up to one to two weeks later.
If you’re more than 37 weeks pregnant, losing your mucus plug shouldn’t be any cause for alarm unless it is accompanied by heavy bleeding. Dr Christopher Ng cautions, “If the amniotic fluid discharged from the vagina is heavily stained with blood or greenish in colour, this could indicate signs of early placental abruption or uterine rupture (in cases of a previous caesarean section) or foetal distress respectively and one should immediately rush to the hospital.”
Your Water Breaks
While movies would depict that you’ll learn you’re in labour only when your water breaks, that’s quite an unlikely scenario. It’s actually one of the last signs of labour women experience and happens in fewer than 15 per cent of births.
Otherwise known as the spontaneous rupture of the membranes or the rupturing of the sac of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby, it can occur as a gush or a trickle, depending on how much amniotic fluid you have and whether it is the fore-waters (the large volume of fluids in front of the baby’s head), or the hind-waters (the smaller amount of fluid behind the baby’s head).
Normal amniotic fluid is straw-coloured and you may be able to
distinguish it from urine because it is sweeter smelling.
Especially if this is your first pregnancy, it can be easy to focus on the overwhelming pain that comes with childbirth. But know that with every passing moment, you’ll be one step closer to meeting your little bundle of joy!
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