Early Labor Signs
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Early labor signs are the first signs that your body may be getting ready to give birth. They usually begin between 37 to 42 weeks of pregnancy. Caregivers will try to stop your labor if it is too early and your baby is not ready to be born.
Signs that labor may be getting close:
- Lightening: This means that your baby has begun to drop lower in your pelvis. This may start a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins. After lightening, you may find it easier to breathe. You may need to urinate more often after lightening.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: These are contractions that come and go, and do not get close together. They are not true labor contractions and do not cause your cervix to dilate (open). They are usually felt in your abdomen, and not in your back. Braxton Hicks contractions decrease when you walk, rest, sleep, or drink at least 32 ounces of water. Braxton Hicks labor pains usually do not mean that labor is near.
- Bloody show: This may look like clear, pink, or slightly bloody mucus coming from your vagina. As your cervix begins to soften and open, the mucus plug that has protected your baby from germs entering your uterus will come out. Bloody show may happen minutes, hours, or up to 3 days before labor begins.
- Rupture of membranes: This is known as when your amniotic sac (water) breaks. The amniotic sac surrounds your baby to protect him during pregnancy. You may feel a slow trickle or large gush of fluid from your vagina. This may happen several hours before labor starts, or any time during labor. Let your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician know what color the fluid was. After your water breaks, do not douche, take a bath, or have sex.
- Steady and frequent contractions: When true labor begins, contractions do not go away when you walk, lie down, or drink water. During true labor, your contractions become more frequent, last longer, and become more intense. True contractions cause your cervix to efface (thin) and dilate (open).
Contact your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician if:
- You have a fever.
- Your contractions are hard, regular, and going from your stomach area to your back.
- You do not feel your baby moving as much as usual.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your amniotic sac breaks and you do not have contractions or labor pains.
- You have heavy vaginal bleeding.
- You have severe, constant abdominal pain rather than regular labor contractions.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.