The Big Signs of Labour
Childbirth actually starts weeks before you feel your first contraction. Your body starts to prepare for birth in a range of different ways that you may or may not notice. Even if you don’t notice or see any of these things, they are still happening. The ’signs’ of labour can be an indication that you will be about to give birth very soon, but the time scales vary greatly. For example, ‘a show’ can happen weeks or hours before you go into labour. The main thing to know is that things are moving in the right direction.
1. Warming Up For Labour
In the third trimester you may become aware of a tightening of the uterus, coming in irregular waves or after you have drank raspberry leaf tea. These practice surges or contractions are also known as Braxton-Hicks and are not real contractions at all. These waves are important to prepare the uterus for the upcoming labour. Think of Braxton Hicks as toning and strengthening the muscles of the Uterus in preparation for the big event, the same way you may be practising yoga to grow strong. Braxton Hicks don’t hurt and often precede the start of labour. I personally didn’t feel the point where they became actually labour.
‘False Labour’ is the term used to describe a period where you may actually have a number of regular Braxton Hicks for a few hours at a time. False labour is still toning up and strengthening the body in preparation for giving birth.
You know it’s the real thing when your contractions are around 5 minutes apart and regular. They will gradually become closer and closer and the waves more intense. If you suspect these are still Braxton-Hicks, try having something to eat or going for a walk about. If you find this changes the regularity of the surges or that they disappear, then these are just practice contractions.
2. Leaky Boobies
You may get a fright when you notice that your breasts are secreting a thick yellow fluid. This is known as colostrum. Colostrum is what you produce before your milk ‘comes in’ and will be your baby’s first food. Colostrum is amazingly good for your baby and has a very high concentration of protein and antibodies from your immune system, which protect your baby from illness for the first few days. It also acts as a laxative to help move the meconium (baby’s first poo) out of their digestive system. The high levels of vitamins and minerals found in colostrum may also be important for protecting baby and in furthering their development. This is why everyone tells you that breast feeding is so important in those first few hours (weeks, months etc. etc.)
3. A Bloody Show: Eek!
It’s not as bad as it sounds and it’s actually a very promising sign that baby is en-route. It does have an unfortunate name though. A bloody show is basically bloody mucus from your cervix which loosens and comes out as the cervix begins to thin and dilate. You may notice it when you go to the bathroom. Generally, a bloody show is a small amount of bright red blood and may contain a few small clumps, so don’t be worried if you see this.
4. Toilet time
As the body prepares for birthing, it starts to clear itself out. This could result in mild diarrhoea, always a joy.