Was that a sign of labor? It’s a question most moms-to-be ask themselves. A lot goes on during pregnancy and it’s confusing at times, especially in the last month. On top of that, no two women experience the same things when having a baby and no two pregnancies are exactly alike. Now is a good time to learn more about the early signs of labor and to get answers to common questions like “how long does early labor last for first-time moms?”
The Early Signs of Labor | Symptoms to Watch Out For
In this article:
- 1. The Belly Shift
- 2. Change in Bowel Habits
- 3. Nesting
- 4. Braxton-Hicks Contractions
- 5. Effacement and Dilation
- 6. The Bloody Show
- 7. Your Water Breaks
- 8. Contractions
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1. The Belly Shift
Labor starts way before the contractions begin. That’s a good thing because it gives Mom some time to get ready for the new baby. The first thing you might notice is a shift in your belly — one that allows you to breathe more easily. This happens as the baby drops into position at the top of the birth canal.
You feel some relief when the baby drops because the diaphragm can expand more easily, so you can take deeper breaths. The downside is that the baby is now much closer to your bladder, so you’ll find yourself taking restroom trips more often. You might also notice that your back hurts more as the baby puts pressure on the pelvis.
The belly shift can occur anywhere from two to four weeks before labor. For new moms, it starts earlier. However, if this is your second or third baby, the drop might come later.
2. Change in Bowel Habits
As your body gets ready to give birth, your stools might turn runny and you’ll have to go to the bathroom more often. The baby’s movement through the birth canal puts pressure on the intestines, so this is Mother Nature’s way of cleaning house before that happens.
— Mark Swinford (@markswinford) January 14, 2018
It’s something all moms do, whether they’re human, canine, or feline. For human moms, nesting probably involves putting together the nursery, cleaning the house, and shopping. You will have energy to burn and will get things done while you’re nesting.
4. Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Braxton-Hicks contractions are a warm-up to labor and a good sign that you’re close to giving birth. They are less intense than actual contractions, but they can be uncomfortable all the same. These contractions allow the cervix to thin out as your body prepares for full labor.
5. Effacement and Dilation
Finally watched the balloon video! Great demonstration of effacement and cervical dilation. Watch it!… https://t.co/FHCuP3Wx1g
— Why not Home (@whynothome) November 14, 2017
In the last couple of weeks of your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will tell you that you are effaced by a certain percentage or dilated by a number of centimeters. Those numbers represent the cervix thinning out (effacement) and then opening (dilation). It is one of the early signs of labor and means that you can expect your baby soon.
6. The Bloody Show
The uterus is a lot like an upside-down jug with a cork in the opening. As the baby’s head moves closer to the neck of the jug, it pushes the cork out. That is what moms call the bloody show. As the baby uncorks the jug, you might notice the mucus plug and blood on your panties. This vaginal discharge is a sign of impending labor, so get ready. You have about three days until your baby’s birth.
7. Your Water Breaks
Despite what you see on TV, not all women experience that gush of water people often associate with labor. If it does happen to you, there is no doubt about it — you are in labor and things are about to get intense. For most women, contractions start within the next couple of hours. Be sure to notify your healthcare provider that your water has broken. Your healthcare provider may need to induce labor if contractions don’t start on their own.
This is the last stage of the labor process. Uterine contractions can last anywhere from minutes to days. In the beginning, they’ll feel like mild menstrual cramps, but the intensity will grow as you get closer to giving birth. The time in between contractions will shorten as your labor progresses. You must call for help when the contractions are consistently about five minutes apart.
Here’s a video by howdini on how to recognize the early signs of labor:
If this is your first baby, a fair amount of time might pass between labor and the moment you give birth. Hence, knowing the above-mentioned transition phase of labor will give you more time to prepare physically, emotionally, and mentally. If you have had a baby before, your labor might be shorter. Hopefully these early signs will keep you on track!
In your first-hand or second-hand experience, how long do early signs of labor last for first-time moms? Let us know in the comments section below.