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What are the signs that labor has begun?

  1. Strong Regular Contractions

You will know you are in labor when you start having strong contractions. During contractions you will feel your womb tightening and relaxing, and if you place your hand on your tummy you will be able to feel the hardening and softening of the muscles. You may have experienced this feeling mildly throughout your pregnancy. However when you start having regular, strong contractions lasting several seconds each, this could be a sign of labor. Your contractions will gradually become longer, more frequent, and stronger, as your baby is slowly pushed down and your cervix gradually opens up (dilates) in preparation for birth. Unless you experienced complications during pregnancy, you will probably be advised to relax at home during the early stages of contractions until your contractions last more than 30 seconds each, and begin to occur every five minutes or so. When this happens it is time to head to the nearest hospital or birth center you’ve selected.

  1. A “show”: passing lightly blood stained pieces of mucus through your vagina

Another sign of labour is a “show.” During pregnancy a plug of mucus forms in your cervix. Just before labour, this plug comes away and passes through your vagina as a sticky, jelly like substance. It’s normal to loose a little blood with the show. However if you experience heavy bleeding, call your doctor or midwife immediately.  Not all women have a show, so don’t worry if you do not experience this.

  1. Waters Breaking

During pregnancy your baby grows inside a protective bag of fluid. During labour this bag breaks and the fluid drains out through your vagina. This is called waters breaking. When this happens you may feel a trickle or gush of fluid through your legs In many cases the waters break after labour has started. However in some cases this can happen before labour starts- without much prior warning. You could be prepared by keeping a sanitary towel in your bag when you go out, or laying an extra protective sheet over your bed when you sleep. If your waters break before labour starts, contact your doctor or midwife immediately for advice: without the protective fluid your baby is no longer protected from infections and could be in danger. The fluid you pass when your waters break should be a pale yellow colour- similar to urine. If the fluid is different in color, smelly, or if you experience heavy bleeding when your waters break, contact your doctor or midwife immediately for advice.

  1. Backache or strong urge to use the bathroom

Backache and an urge to use the bathroom are common during labour as your baby begins to move downwards and his/her head pushes against the bowels in the process.

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