In a study conducted by Gross et al., only 60% of 651 women sampled said that contractions were a sign of onset of labour. If you go by what television and the movies tell you, you will imagine that contractions starting is one of the biggest signs that your baby is ready to be born. That, and waters breaking, are often shown in the media as occurring minutes to a few hours before a baby is born. If you are in the majority of women though, you will point out other signs your body is getting ready for labour as being more prevalent than contractions and broken waters.
In addition to breaking waters and contractions, here are 11 other symptoms you might get hours before labour. Some of them are emotional signs of labour approaching and they are just as dependable as the physical signs.
Signs that your body is getting ready for labour
One of the more silent labour signs is a backache that could be either niggling or intense. It might not be extremely painful to you but you will be aware of it as it would not have been there before. It is likely to become more painful as it goes on. For me, it was in my lower back and felt like intense period cramping.
- Broken waters
So yes, like in the movies, your waters breaking could be the sign that you need to know that your labour is starting. Just bear in mind that although labour is starting, it does not necessarily mean that delivery will occur within the next hour. Doctors sometimes need to induce labour if you have to wait too long after your waters have broken.
- Loss of appetite
Food might start to become less appealing to you suddenly. This could occur in the days before your labour begins. This could just be your body’s way of preparing itself for your baby’s exit. Other people believe that mothers instinctely know that labour is imminent and the anxiety of it causes them to become less interested in food.
Again, this is the body’s amazing way of clearing the way for your baby to be born. When your bowels are empty or at least not full, your uterus is able to contract more efficiently.
The general upset and discomfort that you may experience in your stomach could lead to nausea. For some women, it could occur because in the last days before labour begins, the uterus is taking up so much space due to your growing baby that your stomach and intestines are being encroached upon as well.
In the very early stages of labour, you could also experience bloating along with some gasiness. Bloating can occasionally be painful and that pain can increase in intensity as labour progresses.
By your third trimester, you may be feeling significantly less tired than you were when you first got pregnant. That is the reason why this overwhelming sense of exhaustion later in your pregnancy will be a good signal to you that you may be about to go into labour. You could find yourself so tired that you are unable to do daily activities that you were able to do in previous weeks.
- Bloody show
For some pregnant women, this will happen a few days before labour begins. For others, it could be one of the symptoms that appear hours before labour. A bloody show is a “pink or brown-tinged mucus” that falls out as your cervix opens.
Cramps are a fairly common pre-cursor to labour. Like #1 above, you could feel them in your lower back or you could feel them in your abdominal area like strong period pains.
- Feeling of needing to use the toilet – pressure in bum sign of labour
As the baby drops deeper into your pelvis, you may start to feel the urge to pee more frequently. Your baby’s head could also be pressing on your bowels, causing you to feel the urge to empty your bowels. It depends on the position of your baby’s head.
- Restlessness and/or irritability
These emotional signs of labour approaching are not at all uncommon. You might find yourself irritated by things you do not normally care about. You might also find it very difficult to sit still. This restlessness could lead you to an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep or a simple inability to relax.
- Urge to tidy up and clean
You could find yourself unconsciously on the prowl for any number of things that need to be done around the house, for example, before the baby arrives. Cooking in bulk, cleaning and tidying up are all things you might have a sudden desire to do a few days before your labour begins.
This is indeed one of the more commonly thought of signs your body is getting ready for labour. Contractions can be described simply as the tightening of the muscles in your uterus. As your uterus tightens and relaxes, it pushes your baby out gradually. It may manifest as sharp pains in the cervix and it is a sign of labour starting.
These could all be signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away. For some women though, actual delivery may be much farther off.
Can labour start and stop over days?
Yes. This is referred to as prodromal labour. It is where labour starts and stops so that you feel contractions but those contractions do not actually cause a change in the cervix. You may also hear it referred to as practice contractions or false labour.
Do not let the phrase “false labour” fool you though. As someone who has experienced it, prodromal labour feels very real indeed and it can go on over many days as in my case or over weeks.
Is 24 hours a long labour?
It depends on who you ask. As a general guide, it is expected that you will give birth within 20 hours of beginning active labour or regular contractions. However, other experts would say that up to 24 hours of labour is normal. That is only with one baby. With multiples, your labour is not expected to last more than 16 hours.
Is it better for a baby to be born early or late?
It depends on how early or late you mean. Both can be detrimental to the baby’s health if extreme.
It is unlikely that a baby could be born too late if you have registered your pregnancy with your gynaecologist and are having regular antenatal appointments. An induction will be booked to deliver your baby for the sake of both your baby’s and your own health if you go too far past your due date. It is unlikely that your doctor will allow you to go more than two weeks past your due date.
In the case of your baby being born too early, it is less controllable if there are no pre-existing conditions or there are no signals throughout your pregnancy to indicate a premature birth. If your baby is born too early, there is the possibility that their body may not be fully developed enough to allow them to survive.
A baby born before 37 weeks is classed as premature or pre-term. Some medical experts argue that giving birth even at 38 weeks instead of 40 weeks could lead to health problems for a baby.
Apart from keeping up with your antenatal appointments, you should also speak to your doctor if you are worried or feel any symptoms that indicate that you might be going into labour far in advance of your due date.
Some pregnant women who have experienced labour previously will trust their instincts more than any of these physical signs your body is getting ready for labour.