3 Ways to Tell if You are in Early Labour
As you approach 40 weeks pregnant, you find yourself hyper-aware of any niggling, twinges, tightening, aches, and pressure. You ask yourself, "is this it, or is this just gas?" It can be confusing to have sensations and symptoms similar to that of labour, only for them to disappear again!
Pre-labour or sometimes inaccurately named "false" labour sensations that are hard to distinguish from early labour signs can include aching lower back, braxton hicks (tightening of the uterus) that seem to have a pattern, cramps that feel like period cramps, or sharp, electric pains in the cervix.
Here are a few ways to see if your baby has finally decided to come! If after you have tried all 3 Ways, you still have symptoms, it is a good chance your baby is on his or her way!
1. Have a hot shower or bath
Warm water is always soothing for our tired, sore muscles and joints. Having a hot shower or bath may just relax your body enough to stop the aching or cramping.
2. Drink a big glass of water.
Sometimes we can get a bit dehydrated and our muscles - including the uterus - can cramp up a bit. Try a big glass of water to see if it makes your cramping stop.
3. Lie down on your left side for a little while
Lying down on your left side helps blood flow to your uterus with more ease. If you've been on your feet for a while, take a break and lie down to see if the labour symptoms stop. If they do stop, your body was likely just reminding you to rest!
Some women experience these labour-type symptoms on and off for days or even weeks. This is called prodromal labour and it can be frustrating, emotional and exhausting. I've had clients feel very disheartened with the lack of dilation while they are experiencing prodromal labour, however while it may seem as though your body is doing absolutely nothing helpful, it is actually doing a lot of work in preparation for active labour. In order for your cervix to fully dilate, it needs to be soft and thin, and this is usually what is happening when these labour symptoms tease us.
Sometimes prodromal labour is attempting to move baby into an ideal position for birth. If you feel that you may be experiencing this, it can be valuable to try a series of body positions called Miles Circuit. Be sure to speak with your care provider about this.
About 15% of women experience the amniotic sac rupturing before labour starts. For some it is a large gush, but for others it may seem as though they may have peed a little bit. I mean, there IS a lot of pressure and weight down there and we know baby likes to practice his or her acrobatics right on top of your bladder! If the fluid is clear, but only a little bit trickled out, it's difficult to know if your waters have broken or not. In this case, your care provider may be able to test the fluid to see if your waters did, in fact, rupture.
If you have tried all of the 3 ways of seeing if you're in labour or not and your cramping and aching continue, be sure to let your doula and your care provider know, because it is likely that your baby is on their way!