There comes a time during pregnancy when I am just DONE. It usually hits me around 35 weeks and from that point on, the days seem to never end. I have arrived.
When I’m this far along, I really start looking for signs that labor is approaching. After being pregnant so many times, I know what is pretty normal/standard for me. During my first pregnancy, I didn’t have a clue what to look for. I mean really look for. If this is your first baby, some of this may be helpful.
Right now, I’m 35 weeks and one of the biggest signs that the baby is coming happened 4 weeks ago….waaaaaaaay early for me. At the beginning of my 31st week, my baby dropped, or became close to fully engaged, into the birth canal. This is also called Lightening, but I never use that term.
During pregnancy, a baby can move, flip, roll…etc…all over the place. Even when things get extremely cramped, the baby can do some pretty surprising stuff. A few weeks before labor begins, however, many babies will get into a head down position and actually drop into the pelvis…so, they are no longer “floating”, as you may hear your doctor say. When this occurs, they are fixed right there for the remainder of their stay. Their head presses on the cervix and causes it to thin out, or efface. Effacement has to occur some before dilation can begin, so this is all a very good thing!
Before a baby engages, the mother will experience a feeling of fullness. Her uterus has grown so much that it’s pushing everything up, crowding the rib cage. She may experience shortness of breath, not being able to finish a meal, intense heartburn/acid reflux, and even pain. Sitting down often hurts as it even lessens the amount of space needed to breathe comfortably.
BUT, when the baby drops, those feelings are instantly replaced with pressure down low. Heartburn may completely disappear, breathing becomes a thing of ease, meals become enjoyable, and sitting is, once again, comfortable for the most part. The down side is the pressure and feeling like the baby may fall out & the fact that you almost always feel like you need to pee.
This has happened quite early for me this time. The earliest a baby has dropped for me was 32 1/2 weeks & she came 5 weeks later. I’m not sure if this baby will hold out for 7 weeks fully engaged, but we’ll see. (I usually go into labor naturally at 38 weeks.)
So, dropping/baby becoming engaged is a big sign, but it may not happen until just before labor starts. Everyone is different.
Another sign has to do with the changing of your bowels. I know…nice. So let’s just say that if you’ve been constipated for a while, you won’t be anymore….and eventually you will be the exact opposite of constipated. Pregnancy hormones will start changing & cleaning out your system will be a top priority to make more room for the baby to pass through the birth canal. This is definitely a sign I pray for.
More intense Braxton Hick’s contractions is another sign. These practice contractions are sometimes even confused with real labor contractions. The difference is that true labor contraction pain usually starts in the back and moves around to the front. If you are just having a little cramping in the front, it’s probably not the real thing, although it could be. I will be bold in stating that if you are truly in labor, though, you will probably know it. And the pain of the contraction will start in your back because true labor contractions involve the whole uterus, not just parts of it. But everyone is different.
Nesting is another big sign, but so is extreme fatigue. For me, nesting starts early, not right before labor. I have lots of packing to do and we live an hour away from the hospital. I already have all the kids’ clothes packed & in the car, along with the baby’s clothes. I have a bag packed for me & Rooster in our bedroom specifically for the hospital just in case I go into labor earlier than I expect. I keep up with laundry like a crazy person & my house stays clean. Rooster loves it when I’m nesting.
Extreme fatigue comes as I get really close. I still have to work to keep it all ready, but it kills me. All I want to do is lay down. Taking breaks is important, but not something I get a whole lot of.
Another sign is losing your mucous plug. As you get close to going into labor, hormones will start to release the mucous plug. Sometimes it comes out in one big chunk (nice), but for me, it comes out gradually. I usually start seeing it around 36 weeks, but it started at 34 this rodeo. It can be yellowish, pinkish, brownish, or bloody (watch out, girl). Last week it was yellowish for me. Now it’s brown, which indicates old blood, or pinkish, which is usually the breakage of tiny blood vessels as you efface & dilate.
Effacement & dilation. Unless you’ve had preterm labor issues, you’ll probably not have your cervix checked until you’re 36 weeks. By this point, many women have started to thin out and some even start to dilate. I have always been 50% thinned or more and dilated 1 cm by my 36th week check up. It starts early for me, but some women don’t have any cervical change until labor begins.
I usually feel sick or just not “right” the day I go into labor. One time I threw up while I was taking my shower before church. One time I left a family function a bit early because of an overall “sick” feeling. Once I couldn’t do anything except for walk around constantly.
These “signs” or “symptoms” are different for every mother, but our bodies do naturally gear up for that big day, though the changes for some might be subtle & completely obvious for others. Paying close attention is important, no matter how many times you’ve been pregnant.
So, labor has already started knocking at my door, though a bit early. When expected company knocks early, or unexpected company suddenly appears, my blood pressure goes up, my face gets red, and steam comes out of my ears.
But labor…….when it’s a sweet baby, arriving a bit early is a welcomed thing of joy…..
……as long as there’s no loud banging. Or ringing the doorbell and then running off right before I get there..
So, expect company at some point, girls. And hopefully you will be able to recognize some of the signs that will tell you that labor is somewhere in the neighborhood.