The nine months of gestation are up and you’re about to give birth. Medical professionals call this final stage in childbirth “labor and delivery.” We’ve separated them here because the signs of labor can begin long before the actual delivery of your child. To learn what to expect during and after the birth of your child, visit our “Delivery” page.
Signs Of Labor
It is normal for labor to start as early as three weeks before the due date or as late as two weeks after it. The following are signs that labor is probably not far away:
This is when your baby’s head drops down into your pelvis in preparation for delivery. Your belly might look lower and you may find it easier to breathe because your baby no longer crowds your lungs. Your baby is pressing on your bladder which can cause an increased need to urinate. Lightening can occur a few weeks to a few hours from the onset of labor.
If you find blood-tinged discharge it is the releasing of your mucus plug that has sealed off the womb from infection throughout your pregnancy. This can occur days before or at the onset of labor.
Frequent loose stools may mean that labor is imminent.
Fluid leaking or sometimes gushing from your vagina means that the membranes of the amniotic sac that surrounds and protects your baby have ruptured. This can occur hours before labor starts or during labor.
You may have experienced Braxton Hicks contractions in your third trimester of your pregnancy, but contractions that occur at intervals of less than 10 minutes are usually an indication that labor has begun.
Tricks to Make Labor Easier
We won’t lie and tell you that giving birth is an easy process. For most women, delivery is very painful. But there are ways to prepare, and things to do during childbirth, that can make the process a lot smoother.
Know the Plan.
You don’t want to stress out when labor starts, so knowing exactly what to do is very important. Talk with your provider about whether you should call them or the hospital first and how long you should stay home. Also, discuss possible scenarios with your loved ones. Work out answers to questions like: What should you do if no one is home with you? Who will meet you at the hospital?
Staying fit during your pregnancy can help you better handle any pain that you will be going through. It could also increase your stamina for labor by doing cardio workouts. Another great way to stay fit is by taking Lamaze, childbirth classes, or yoga. Yoga allows endurance and mental focus during labor.
Have a Support Team.
If you are a social butterfly, you might want a whole team with you during your delivery. You might feel more comfortable when you’re one on one or with a small group of guests in the delivery room.
Save Your Energy.
You will probably spend most of the first part of your labor at home. While you’re there, relax as much as you can. Try taking a soothing shower or get a tender massage from a family member. It’s also a good idea to have some snacks and drink plenty of water because once you are at the hospital you might not be able to eat and you’ll need the extra energy!
Get Out of Bed.
Some women find that moving around during labor helps the baby get into position for birth. It can also help you feel less antsy waiting for delivery. When you’re in the hospital, see if you can walk to halls or sit and bounce on an inflatable birthing ball.
Go With The Flow.
You need to be open-minded and flexible as labor and delivery can be unpredictable. Some pregnant women are adamant about having an anesthesia-free birth but then are caught off-guard when they start wanting an epidural. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t feel as though you need everything to go exactly as was planned.
Listen to Your Provider.
When it’s time to push, trust your OB or midwife to tell you when and how hard. Do what your provider advises and you could avoid wearing yourself out with ineffective pushing and even prevent unnecessary tearing.
Labor Pain Treatments
Analgesics relieve pain without the total loss of feeling or muscle movement. During labor, they may be given systemically by injection into a muscle or vein or regionally by injection into the lower back to numb your body.
A single injection into the spinal fluid that relieves pain quickly is referred to as a “spinal block. “An “epidural block” continuously administers pain medication to the area around your spinal cord and spinal nerves through a catheter inserted into the epidural space. Possible risks of both include decreased blood pressure, which can slow the baby’s heart rate, and headache.
Anesthetics block all feeling, including pain. They also block muscle movement. General anesthetics cause you to lose consciousness. If you have a Cesarean delivery, you may be given general, spinal, or epidural anesthesia. The appropriate form of anesthesia will depend on your health, your baby’s health, and the medical conditions surrounding your delivery.
Non-drug methods for relieving pain include acupuncture, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, and changing positions frequently during labor.
Even if you choose non-drug pain relief, you can still ask for pain medications at any point during your delivery.