Most women, especially those who are pregnant for the first time are quite anxious to know the early approaching signs of labor. A normal labor can be described as a process of expulsion of mature fetus through the vagina where the parturition occurs spontaneously without any delay. There is no exact predicted specific period to pin point when labor will start. However, there are many signs which help the pregnant woman and the doctor to know that she is approaching labor.
The exact cause of labor is still not clear but several factors are considered to initiate it.They are distension of uterus, hormonal effects, nerve control, and effect of fetal hormones. Normally the first labor takes prolonged time than subsequent ones.
Typical Signs And Subtle Signs Of Approaching Labor
Labor is divided into three stages, the first, second and the third stage. In the first and second stage a woman may experience several signs of approaching labor. Some of the signs are subtle and she may not be able to realize them. However, there are certain prominent signs of impending labor which she will be able to recognize easily.
Since every woman is different, the signs may not occur in specific order.They may vary from one woman to another. Most notable signs that a pregnant woman is approaching labor are as follows.
- There is unusual increase in discharge of brown or pink colored fluid. The fluid may be thick or watery and occurs few days or weeks before the labor begins.
- As labor approaches, the uterus and cervix become soft. It allows the fetus to drop down further into the pelvic cavity. Dropping of fetus into the lower side of pelvis reduces pressure on the ribcage. As a result she is able to breathe more comfortably. During this period she feels excessive and frequent urge to pass urine, because of pressure on bladder from engagement of fetus.
- Low back pain is common among many women who approach labor. As fetus moves forward into the pelvis, it puts pressure on the ligaments attached to pelvis and back. They stretch to facilitate easy parturition of the fetus. This causes pain in lower back before the onset of labor.
- During the last four weeks of pregnancy some women may feel painful contractions called Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are neither frequent nor intense as seen during actual labor. They are similar to cramps that occur during menses. Pain reduces with change of posture.
- As the time of delivery approaches nearer, cervix begins to get soft and starts dilating. It is called effacement of cervix. There is progressive merging of the cervical canal with the lower uterine wall. A pregnant woman is unable to experience this sign, however, the physician is able to find out the change in cervix with two finger vaginal examination.
- As the time of labor approaches nearer there is recurrent abdominal pain caused due to contraction of uterus. It starts from back and comes down to the lower abdomen and thighs. Pain and contraction occur at about 10 minutes interval and lasts for half to one minutes. Later on pain becomes severe and comes at every 3 to 5 minute interval. Woman pregnant for the first time may experience more painful contractions than subsequent pregnancies.
- There is a discharge of blood stained mucus through vagina before few hours or days of onset of labor. In obstetric term it is called ‘show’. It occurs when the cervical mucus plug gets separated and expelled from the lower part of uterus. It is commonly noticed in first time pregnant woman. This sign is absent in succeeding pregnancies.
- Pregnant women may have desire to pass stool when the fetus comes on the pelvic floor.
- Breaking of bag of water occurs in majority of pregnant women during the time of labor. There is gush of amniotic fluid which remains in the amniotic sac. It occurs as frequency of contractions increases.