Signs That Labor is Knocking On Your Front Door

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.

Lisa

The Irritable Uterus During Pregnancy

I have an irritable uterus. Not only is it irritable, but it’s irritating.

I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant with my 7th child and it’s doing its thing once again, just like it did during all my other pregnancies.

I had no idea what an irritable uterus was during my first 4 pregnancies. My doctor didn’t tell me or anything–I had to discover it for myself through research.

An irritable uterus is pretty much just that–a uterus that is irritated during pregnancy. It isn’t happy & calm…it’s just the opposite and pitches its fit by contracting.

You’ve probably heard of the term “Braxton Hicks” contractions. These contractions are just practice contractions that happen every so often. They don’t hurt, however they can be rather uncomfortable at times and many women mistaken them for the real thing.

Contractions from an irritable uterus are not Braxton Hicks contractions and they aren’t labor contractions. They don’t occur just every once in a while, and they can definitely be mistaken for the real thing because of their frequency. I’ve gone to the hospital multiple times each pregnancy because of the fear that I was possibly in real labor. And this, my dear readers, can get very irritating.

During the 25th week of my third pregnancy, I started noticing that my stomach would get very hard like all of the time. I would contract over and over again without ceasing…50+ times every day.

(I kept a pregnancy journal…)

I mentioned it to my doctor during my 28 week check up (3rd pregnancy) & he was concerned. He said I shouldn’t have been having more than 3 or 4 contractions an hour–and not every hour at all–so after some tests and ultrasounds, I was put on bed rest. I could go into detail about the tests & ultrasounds–and I will–but I really need to devote the two to another post, which will be coming very soon.

I was put on bed rest, but contractions really never settled down.

I ended up being put in the hospital at 30 weeks after about a week & 1/2 of non-stop contractions & an effaced cervix (75% thinned) and was given Magnesium Sulfate, “the evil drug”, as my nurses called it. (That post is coming soon, as well.) I was 30 weeks at this point and Magnesium did put an end to my contractions for a few weeks. I was almost 33 weeks when they started up again, however I did not go into labor because of them. I delivered a healthy baby boy at 38 weeks after being induced.

That was 8 years ago. Since 2010, I’ve been pregnant 4 more times and I’ve experienced the same thing during every pregnancy, including this one. I’ve never delivered a premature baby, despite my constant contractions, and I’ve never had any more treatment since my 3rd pregnancy.

This is just my NORMAL. My irritable uterus is my normal. It’s nothing I can prevent. It’s nothing I need to worry about, however I do need to listen to my body & slow down when contractions start to get intense.

There are things that can set off an irritable uterus, so if you are experiencing crazy contractions, you may want to consider these possible situations…

  • Dehydration can cause an irritable uterus to act up. You really need to drink a lot of water during pregnancy. For those with an irritable uterus, they need to drink even more. If you start having symptoms, lay down & drink drink drink.
  • Overworking yourself can irritate your uterus. I notice it most when I am up vacuuming, which I am obsessive about. I am constantly cleaning up with 6 kids, 3 cats, & a dog inside my house. My laundry never ever ceases and I cook almost every meal. We have horses, goats, & chickens. I over-do just about everything and I usually won’t stop until I’m satisfied, which is pretty stupid in my situation. Slow down & don’t be like me. I just keep going cause the irritable uterus thing no longer scares me like it used to.
  • Stress can cause an irritable uterus. Okay, there. Enough said. This may be my main culprit.
  • A full bladder, constipation, standing to quickly, staying on your feet for too long…etc…these are symptoms I’ve read other women talk about, so they may very well be reasons for your uterus to get its panties in a wad, but I’ve been on full bed rest with non-stop contractions, so they are really just situations other pregnant women have found themselves in. This may or may not be you.
  • An irritable uterus is an irritable uterus…sometimes it just is what it is. Most women don’t experience a true irritable uterus. I mean, after being pregnant as many times as I’ve been pregnant, with the internet at my fingertips for the last five, I would have surely read more on the subject during my fears if it were a regular occurrence among most pregnant women.
  • If you are just starting to have symptoms, the first thing I would do is take Naproxen (Aleve), lay down on your left side, and drink two full glasses of water within an hour and 1/2. This may quiet your uterus, however, if it does not, call your doctor or head to the office or emergency room just in case there really is something wrong…and especially if this is your first baby.
  • If this is not your first rodeo, and you experienced all the classic irritable uterus symptoms with your previous pregnancy and delivered full term, it is very likely that you will have an irritable uterus with every pregnancy thereafter. Unless you purchase a new uterus in between pregnancies or something. 🙄 So what I’m saying is this: your uterus is either irritable or not. It probably won’t have multiple personalities throughout its life.
  • Sometimes there is nothing you can do to ease an irritable uterus. There are times that nothing you do will help calm things down. I have had contractions 1-2 minutes apart for hours and hours…it’s just how it is sometimes. They stop when they’re ready to stop & start up again when they wish.

Here is a picture where I timed them during my 2nd pregnancy.So, if you are dealing with the stress of an irritable uterus, I sympathize with you completely. It’s no fun and it can scare you out of your mind. Your doctor will more than likely want to be overly cautious, which is obviously smart, but sometimes nothing can really be done if all you own is a uterus that gets irritated at the drop of a hat.

As irritating as an irritable uterus is, your baby is worth it, so hang in there, mama! The ride will be over soon enough.

Lisa

The Most Brilliant Way to Naturally Induce Your Labor

I have been pregnant for 1,786 days to date….one-thousand, seven-hundred and eighty-six days…

I’m not complaining. Just merely stating a fact.

However, many many many of those days, were spent wishing that I were not so pregnant anymore. This is a feeling that I’m pretty sure 99.999% of all expectant mothers eventually feel. There just comes a time when we are DONE.

I’m 25 weeks pregnant with my 7th baby right now, so I haven’t reached the point of no return just yet, but I’m getting there a lot quicker this go round. I’m already starting to waddle and swell when I sit for too long. I was walking/waddling up to our barn this afternoon and I couldn’t believe how tough the last few steps had become. It made me a bit nauseous.

(more…)

The 20 Week Ultrasound…My Bump is Over the Half-Way Hump!

Last week marked my 20th week in this pregnancy and you know what that means…..my time for the big ultrasound had come.

I used to get excited about having ultrasounds, but the more pregnancies I have, the more I sort-of dread them.

Well, I don’t really dread them. That’s probably pushing it a bit, but I definitely get that nervous gut feeling as it approaches.

During my earlier pregnancies, I knew very little. Well, I wasn’t stupid, but let’s just say that I was very naive. I just expected to go in and see the baby’s body parts & hear the heartbeat, you know…that sort of stuff. I didn’t even think about the possibility that something might not be just right, but the older I get, the more I fear that I’m going to find out that something is wrong with the baby.

It’s probably mostly because of my age.

Oh. I should probably not announce that on Sunday, I will turn thirty-eight. 38, people! Go ahead & round that one up. It’s absolutely depressing. I never thought I’d ever get this old. I use to joke about people getting “Over the Hill.” Geez Louise. It’s been bothering me all week…and Rooster started celebrating it last night…five days early. Thanks, buddy.


Please accept my apologies for having a mini blog breakdown.


So, here’s a profile picture of our newest chick. Or rooster. If you read my blog regularly, you know we don’t find out the baby’s gender. Sorry, y’all, that’s just the way it is. Here’s for surprises!

Do you see that big blob at the top? That is my placenta. Well, some of it. The medical term is anterior placenta. It has caused me much stress this go round & here’s why…

The location of an anterior placenta is in the front of the uterus, closest to your skin. As the 20 week mark approaches, we expect to feel some kicks in there. Well, if your placenta is attached in the front, it’s like a big, soft, fluffy pillow for your baby, and karate chopping through that thing just-ain’t-gonna-happen when the baby is that little.

I usually feel my babies kick around 17 weeks & those kicks become much stronger as the 20th week draws near, but it was not so this time. I had an anterior placenta with my last pregnancy as well, so I had a pretty good idea that was the reason for me not feeling much movement.

Anyway, the ultrasound, which I found out is actually called the Anatomy Ultrasound, was quite long. And I go to them alone because, well, someone has to stay with the kids.

And because it gives me some time alone, which I so desperately need these days.

Thankfully, all was well. The baby has all his or her fingers & toes, and the heart, kidneys, brain, spine…etc…are all developing as they should.

The nose and lips are fine, so there’s no cleft lip. I always worry about this because a dear friend of mine had a baby with a cleft lip and cleft palate. She didn’t find out until just weeks before he was born & it was devastating for her. She couldn’t nurse him & had to actually learn how to feed him using a special bottle. Surgeries and speech issues were all things she had to learn about in a short amount of time. I ask them to please check mainly because I know I would need a lot of time to prepare for that situation before delivery.

The baby’s heart rate was 143 bpm, which makes me wonder if it’s a boy. 🤗 Baby was squirming all over the place, so it wasn’t a resting heart rate. My girls all had heart rates of 155 and higher, no matter what, and Jack’s was always much lower. That really is a thing, y’all. It’s not 100%, but it’s really exciting seeing that big of a difference, even if I am carrying another baby girl.

The baby measured right where it he or she was supposed to. My due date stayed exactly the same, and his or her weight was 12 oz, although that’s not always very accurate on ultrasound. I believe one of my books reads that 9 oz. is average for 20 weeks.

My amniotic fluid was good…once I measured 4 weeks ahead & found out that my amniotic fluid was high, which didn’t cause a problem, but had to be checked a few times.

My cervix was thick and closed and my anterior placenta wasn’t low-lying, which is concerning because that situation can cause problems. And that’s another post all together.

And that was pretty much it. Seeing the little miracle growing inside me was nothing short of amazing. No matter how many times I see it, it never loses its luster.

So now that the ultrasound is over and my bump is over the half-way hump, I finally feel like this is all really happening.

Again. ❤️

Lisa

Braxton Hicks vs True Labor Contractions

Every pregnant woman probably wonders about this at least a few times during their third trimester. Are these Braxton Hicks, or am I really going into labor???

I have been there way too many times. It took 4 pregnancies before I finally realized the true difference between the two.

I remember having my first contractions when I was 25 weeks with my first baby. I had NO idea what I was feeling. I seriously thought that the baby turned over & that the hard-as-a-rock area on my belly was her pushing her back against me. I was so clueless.

Braxton Hicks are real contractions, but they aren’t strong enough to change your cervix. They are the “practice” contractions. Your uterus starts contracting very early on, but feeling them at first is difficult. I mean, you probably would never notice.

I’m almost 17 weeks and I just had one. They don’t hurt. The uterus just tightens up and then releases. Just practicing for the big day.

But why do so many women confuse the two?

It’s very easy.

As you approach your due date, Braxton Hicks become stronger and more frequent. They can take your breath away & that right there is very concerning. They can come at regular intervals, too, making you wonder what in the heck is going on.

I have an irritable uterus, which basically means that I have contractions very early on..but they become much more regular between 25 and 30 weeks. I’ll have days when I contract 30-50 times. Some are mild, some are quite strong, and come anywhere from 20 minutes apart all the way to 1 or 2 minutes apart, consistently.

They have sent me to the hospital on several, several occasions, only to be sent home because my cervix was softened, but not dilating. This can get extremely frustrating, especially if you are beyond 37 weeks because by that time we WANT THE BABY OUT.

Having 3O contractions a day is not the norm, so if you are experiencing this, you must tell your doctor. Even if they don’t hurt. The problem with having so many, so often is that they can soften your cervix.

When you’re pregnant, your cervix becomes thick to protect your uterus. When you approach the end of your pregnancy, your cervix will begin to soften (efface). It must efface some before you can begin to dilate. Braxton Hicks contractions can help get this started. The problem occurs if the cervix thins out too much too soon because of these practice contractions.

When I was on my 3rd pregnancy, I was experiencing frequent Braxton Hicks. Some were strong, some weren’t, but I just felt like I was having too many. When I was 28 weeks, I told my doctor. He was concerned and wanted to check my cervix via ultrasound. I was 75% effaced….I should have been 0% effaced.

I was put on bed rest immediately and had to take medication. I also had to come in every week to have my cervix checked. It was very scary time. The medication didn’t help, nor did bed rest.

I ended up going to the emergency room at 30 weeks because the contractions would not slow down. That situation put me into the hospital for 3 days. It deserves its own post, which I will be writing very soon.

Ok. So, real contractions vs Braxton Hicks.

Before I get into this, please understand that this has been my experience. Every pregnancy is different and your situation may not mirror mine. If you are ever concerned, call your doctor.

Real contractions usually, but not always, hurt. They usually start out mild and get stronger and stronger & closer together.

Braxton Hicks usually don’t hurt. They are kind of all over the place. I have so many pieces of paper in my pregnancy journals that show the timing of my Braxton Hicks. They may be 6 minutes apart, then 3 minutes apart, then back to 6, then down to 2, then back to 7…etc. There’s little to no consistency.

Real contractions feel just like menstrual cramps. You will feel it start, peak, then go back down. They may start out 20 minutes apart or more, but they will get closer & closer together, not further & further apart. So, you could have your first real contraction at 1:00pm, the next at 1:20pm, then one at 1:40pm…all 20 minutes apart. But the next one may be at 1:55pm, just 15 minutes later. They will also gradually get stronger….they will eventually be much, much, much stronger than any menstrual cramp you’ve ever had. If you start experiencing anything like this, just go straight to the emergency room. Or immediately call your midwife if you’re having a home birth…etc.

I waited WAY too long the first time I ever went into labor. I was 38 weeks, so I wasn’t absolutely sure that this was it. Very soon, I realized that it was the real thing because my contractions made a drastic turn as far as pain was concerned. I made it to the hospital & had the baby 30 minutes after walking in the emergency room doors—without an epidural, which was not fun. If you want an epidural, I wouldn’t mess around with that stuff. Get to the hospital. The worse thing they’ll do is send you home if it’s not the real thing.

If you are having a lot of Braxton Hicks, there are a few things you can do to try to calm them down.

  • Drink a lot of water. Even if you are the slightest bit dehydrated, your uterus can become irritated. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Take Motrin or Alieve and lay down on. Swap sides as you become uncomfortable, but being on your left side is best.
  • Take a warm bath. The heat helps calm contractions.

So, Braxton Hicks & labor contractions are different, but you can have a Braxton Hicks one minute and a true labor contraction the next. There should be something that sets them apart, but it may be more subtle than I have described. Just pay close attention and be ready to have that baby!

Lisa