Possible signs: Without other signs, these are not enough to signify labor. They may be due to something else, such as indigestion, fatigue, or physical overexertion.
- Vague nagging backache causing restlessness and a need to keep changing positions
- different from “normal” backache felt during pregnancy; may be associated with early contractions
- Several soft bowel movements, sometimes accompanied by flu-like “sick” feelings
- probably associated with increases in prostaglandin levels, which ripens and effaces the cervix
- Intermittent or continuous cramps, similar to menstrual cramps; discomfort may extend to thighs
- may be associated with prostaglandin action and early labor contractions
- Unusual burst of energy resulting in great activity; the “nesting instinct”
- ensures that the mother will have strength and energy to handle labor, so try to avoid overexertion
Preliminary signs: These are more important than the “possible signs,” but it could still be hours or even days before labor is really underway.
- Blood-tinged mucous discharge (“bloody show” or mucous plug)
- associated with thinning and softening of the cervix
- may occur days before other signs, or not until after progressing contractions have begun
- a discharge, mistaken for show, may appear after a pelvic exam; this tends to be brownish, whereas show is pink or red
- Bag of water leaks, resulting in a trickle of fluid from the vagina, but no contractions occur
- ALWAYS call the office, even if no contractions present
- not necessarily associated with labor
- occurs before labor only about 10-12% of the time
- Continuing, non-progressive contractions; they do NOT become longer, stronger, and closer over time. Sometimes called “false” labor, pre-labor, or Braxton-Hicks
- accomplishes softening and thinning of cervix, allowing cervix to begin dilating; should not be perceived as unproductive
Positive signs: These are the only certain signs that the mother is progressing or in true labor.
- Progressive contractions, meaning that they become longer, stronger, and closer together over time.
- It is a clear sign that the cervix is opening if contractions are 5 or fewer minutes apart, and they feel painful, usually in lower abdomen and/or back
- May be accompanied by bloody show
- mother cannot be distracted from these contractions
- Spontaneous rupture of membranes (“water breaks”) with a gush of fluid; may feel a “pop”; along with progressive contractions
- often associated with rapid cervical dilation
- usually happens in late labor