As your due date approaches, you are probably experiencing a range of feelings from excitement to exhaustion. Your due date is not necessarily the day your baby will actually be born; it is more of a guideline. It is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period. You could deliver two weeks before or after that date, and your pregnancy would still be considered full-term. Labor looks different in every single mother, so how do you tell when you are in it?
Signs of Labor
The baby will “drop” and move lower in your pelvis about 2-3 weeks before delivery if this is your first pregnancy, and as late as a few hours before delivery if this is not your first pregnancy. Then, usually a few days before labor, the mucus plug that formed at the opening of the cervix will discharge into the vagina as the cervix begins to open. This is known as the show and can sometimes include blood. Next, the membrane ruptures (more commonly known as the water breaking). This could happen hours before the contractions start or at anytime during labor. If you feel your abdomen alternating from hard to soft, with increasing frequency and intensity, you are having contractions, and your baby is on her way!
Many women report experiencing contractions in the last weeks of pregnancy which do not lead to labor. These faux contractions are called Braxton Hicks contractions, and they can be startling, painful and take your breath away. The difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor is that the contractions of true labor are regular and increase in frequency and strength. If you are not sure whether your contractions are Braxton Hicks or not, call your doctor right away.
When to Call Your Doctor
Even if your due date is not for weeks, the following could be signs of preterm labor and if they happen you should call your doctor right away:
- Lower pain that will not go away
- Regular contractions increasing in strength and frequency
- Membrane rupture (water breaking; this could be a gush or a trickle)
- Brownish or reddish-tinged discharge (mucus plug)
Even if you are experiencing the above signs, labor could still be days away. That said, it is still important to call your doctor right away so that complications do not arise.
At Mt. Auburn our experienced physicians are ready to field your calls or deliver your baby at any hour on any day. If you think you might be going into labor, call us as soon as possible. In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.