It’s almost time for your baby to arrive. You’re excited, but also a bit nervous. That’s completely normal. It’s also normal to have lots of questions, especially if this is your first baby.
One of the most common questions pregnant women have is how they’ll know they’re in labor. Fortunately, some common signs give you an idea that labor has probably started or is likely to begin soon.
Our providers at Westover Hills Women’s Health in San Antonio, Texas, want you to feel comfortable as labor approaches. Here, we share some typical signs of labor that you can look out for.
Sign 1: Contractions
Contractions occur when the muscles of your uterus start to squeeze and relax. This muscular action helps move your baby into place for delivery.
You may not know for sure whether your contractions are signaling the start of labor, because pre-labor contractions known as Braxton Hicks contractions can occur days or weeks before actual labor starts.
Labor contractions differ from Braxton Hicks contractions in that they tend to occur in a pattern, getting stronger and closer together over time.
In addition, false labor pains may go away when you move around or when you lie down. They may come and go. True labor pains, on the other hand, tend to continue even when you change positions.
Sign 2: Passing of the mucus plug
The mucus plug is a glob of mucus-like substances that lodges in your cervical canal during pregnancy. Doing what its name suggests, it plugs up the cervix, preventing bacteria from entering and traveling to your uterus.
Your body may expel the mucus plug as labor begins. But you may pass the mucus plug days or weeks before delivery, so it’s not necessarily a reliable sign that labor has started. And some women pass the mucus plug without noticing it.
Sign 3: Rupture of membranes
A structure known as the amniotic sac (also known as your “membranes” or your “bag of waters”) helps protect your baby during your pregnancy. In some cases, the rupturing of the amniotic sac — also known as the “rupture of membranes” — signals the start of labor.
But in some women, the amniotic sac ruptures before labor begins, and in some women, the sac doesn’t open until your doctor or midwife opens it, so it’s not necessarily a reliable sign of labor.
Sign 4: Lightening
Lightening occurs when your baby moves down into your pelvis in preparation for birth. It gets its name from the lighter feeling some women get when the baby descends into the pelvis and puts less pressure on the diaphragm.
As with other signs of labor, lightening can be an unreliable signifier because it can happen weeks, days, or hours before labor. And some women don’t really notice any change in sensation as the baby moves down into the pelvis.
Care throughout your pregnancy and delivery
As you can see, the signs of labor aren’t always obvious or reliable. But don’t worry: If you aren’t sure whether you’re in labor, a quick call to your provider can help determine whether labor has started.
Remember that labor can look different in different women and can even vary in an individual woman from one pregnancy to the next.
The doctors and certified nurse midwives at our practice welcome any questions you may have about your pregnancy and delivery, including questions about labor.
To schedule a visit at one of our two San Antonio, Texas, offices, we invite you to call us today or use our online tool to book an appointment.