Labor can begin at any point during a pregnancy, with the goal being around the 40th week. Instead of traveling back and forth to the hospital or having your midwife come to check you, you can wait for one of these five signs. The majority of women that have experienced labor and childbirth experience at least one of these “signs that I am in labor”. These signs are the most common indicators that labor has started or will start very soon!
Loss of the Mucus Plug
One of the first signs that suggests that you are in labor is the loss of the mucus plug. The mucus plug is actually not a plug, but rather a clump of old cervical mucus that seals off the opening of the cervix. This plug prevents bacteria from entering the uterus.
When the mucus plug begins to dislodge from the cervix, it may come out in one large piece or in several pieces. Keep in mind that the plug can become dislodged before labor, but will regenerate itself. When labor is beginning, the amount of mucus will be heavy.
The mucus plug is easy to distinguish. It is very stretchy and thick. It may also have a greenish tint, or even specks of blood.
Once the cervix begins to dilate, the small blood vessels surrounding the opening burst. When a woman is entering labor, she may notice spotting or even heavy bleeding. This bleeding may be mixed with parts of the mucus plug or appear alone. To rule out placenta abruption, it is vital that a woman contact her health provider immediately if the amount of blood is heavy.
Contractions affect the entire body, even the intestinal tract. When the first contraction starts, everything around the uterus contracts in sync. Add the presence of the hormone oxytocin, which causes contractions, and you can almost guarantee an upset stomach.
For several months, your body has been practicing for the day in which it goes into labor. The strange thing is, you might have not even known it! Contractions can start off unnoticeable or can start off strong and painful.
True contractions often begin in the back and radiate around to the lower abdomen. They can also start low around the pelvic region and then move towards the chest. During a contraction, you may find that it is hard to breathe or even walk. The best way to describe the pressure that occurs during a true contraction is to imagine having a 200lb person sitting on your chest then suddenly jumping off.
Cervical changes include dilating, effacing and lowering. Most women do not realize that it is safe to check your own cervix. Monitoring for changes will help you identify when you are going into labor since you can tell when your cervix is dilating.
To check your cervix, first wash your hands thoroughly. Find a comfortable position that places your cervix in the best position possible for a self-examination. People who check their own cervix suggest either sitting on a toilet with your legs spread or laying on your back with your hips elevated.
Insert two fingers inside of the vagina and gently move towards the back. The cervix will block your fingers from proceeding further. It will feel like a sponge with an indentation or slit in the middle. To determine if you are dilated or how dilated you currently are, measure with your two fingertips how open the slit is. Note the estimated width and then remove your fingers. Compare your measurements with your fingertips - each fingertip is considered one centimeter. For someone that is 2cm and under, you should be able to make the determination quickly since you inserted two fingers.
When a woman asks, “What are some signs I am in labor?”, remember the 5 common ones: mucus plug dislodges, bloody show, diarrhea, contractions and cervical changes.
Feminist Women’s Health Center - https://www.fwhc.org/health/selfcare.htm
Mayo Clinic: Signs of Labor - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/signs-of-labor/pr00083
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