Signs of Labour128
You’re unlikely to mistake the signs of labour when the time comes but if you’re in any doubt don't hesitate to contact your doctor.
The main signs of labour starting are strong, regular contractions, and a ‘show’ – when the plug of mucus sealing your cervix comes away. Other signs that you are going into labour can include your waters breaking, backache, vomiting or nausea, diarrhoea, and an urge to go to the toilet caused by your baby’s head pressing in your bowel.
When you have a contraction, your womb (uterus) gets tight and then relaxes. You may have had contractions throughout your pregnancy, particularly towards the end. During pregnancy, these painless tightenings are called Braxton Hicks contractions.
When you are having regular, painful contractions that feel stronger and last more than 30 seconds, labour may have started. Your contractions will become longer, stronger and more frequent.
During a contraction, the muscles in your womb contract and the pain increases. If you put your hand on your abdomen, you can feel it getting harder. When the muscles relax, the pain fades and your hand will feel the hardness ease. The contractions are pushing your baby down and opening your cervix (entrance to the womb) ready for your baby to go through.
When your contractions last 30-60 seconds and come every five minutes, call your doctor for advice.
You may or may not also have the following signs:
Either backache or the aching, heavy feeling that some women get with their monthly period
While you are pregnant, a plug of mucus seals your cervix. Just before labour starts, or in early labour, the plug comes away and out of your vagina. This small amount of sticky pink mucus is called a show, and it’s a sign that the cervix is getting ready for labour.
The show may come away in one blob, or in several pieces. It is sticky, jelly-like and pink in colour because it’s blood-stained, but you shouldn't lose a lot of blood. You may lose a small amount of blood, mixed with mucus. If you’re losing more blood, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Labour may start quite quickly after the show, or it may take a few days. Some women do not notice the show come away.
Your waters breaking
Most women’s waters break during labour, but it can also happen before labour starts. Your unborn baby develops and grows inside a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. When it’s time for your baby to be born, the sac breaks and the amniotic fluid drains out through your vagina. This is your waters breaking.
You may feel a slow trickle, or a sudden gush of water that you cannot control. To prepare for this, you could keep a sanitary towel handy if you are going out, and put a plastic sheet on your bed.
Amniotic fluid is clear and a pale straw colour. When it comes out, it may be a little blood-stained to start with. Tell your doctor at once if the waters are smelly or coloured or if you are losing blood, as this could mean you and your baby need urgent attention.
If your waters break before labour starts, phone your doctor for advice. Without amniotic fluid, your baby is no longer protected and there is a risk of infection.