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. πŸ™„ 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