Pregnancy Weeks 38-Birth - Page 3
Signs of labor
During the last few weeks of pregnancy, your body is changing and getting ready for labor. Labor is a series of continuous, progressive contractions of the uterus that help the cervix to open (dilate) and to thin (efface), allowing your unborn baby to move through the birth canal. Labor usually starts two weeks before or after the estimated date of delivery. However, no one knows exactly what triggers the onset of labor.
The signs of labor vary from woman to woman. During the weeks just prior to birth, you may notice some subtle signs such as nesting, lightening, or loss of your mucus plug.
- Nesting is the term given to the sudden urge and burst of energy some women have to prepare everything at home for the baby--like a mother bird readying her nest!
- Lightening is when your baby drops or settles down into your pelvis. You may find you are not as short of breath but you will probably feel more pressure on your bladder and pelvic area.
- The mucus plug, which seals the cervix during pregnancy, will begin to dislodge as the cervix opens. You may notice whitish, stringy, or lumpy mucus in your vaginal discharge.
Some signs of labor occur closer to the actual onset of labor and are usually unmistakable:
- Bloody show is a small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, and is expelled from the vagina.
- Some women have diarrhea or loose bowel movements.
- Contractions (uterine muscle spasms) occurring at intervals of less than 10 minutes are usually an indication that labor has begun. Contractions tend to become more frequent and severe as labor progresses.
- Labor sometimes begins with amniotic fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina. If you experience a rupture of your amniotic sac, you should contact your physician immediately. The majority of women with ruptured membranes go into labor within 24 hours. If labor still has not begun after 24 hours, a woman may be hospitalized for labor to be induced. This step is often taken to prevent infections and delivery complications.
It's natural to be unsure if your labor is beginning, so always check with your health care provider if you are experiencing any of the signs listed above.
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