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Signs of Labor

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As the big day approaches, you may wonder whether you'll know when you're in labor. Don't worry: A woman's body almost always gives her the signals she needs and the inner wisdom to recognize them. Here's what to look for:

Signs Labor Will Begin Soon

There are two main indicators that you'll start labor within a day or two.

1. Rupture of membranes (amniotic sac). You may have also heard this called having your water break. The amount of clear amniotic fluid that escapes from the sac and flows out of the vagina differs from woman to woman. For some it's just a little trickle; for others it can be a gush. Surprisingly, this precursor to labor is a first symptom in fewer than 25 percent of women; it may actually occur during labor instead of before it. But when it happens prior to labor, there's a good chance that labor will start within 24 hours. If your water breaks, notify your doctor or midwife immediately. Note the time it breaks, the color and amount of fluid, and whether there is any foul odor. Report all of this information to your provider.

2. Bloody show. A day or two before contractions begin, you may notice a pinkish or blood-streaked mucus discharge. This "bloody show" is actually the mucus plug that has sealed the cervix during pregnancy. Not all women notice this discharge, and some women begin contractions before the mucus plug is discharged. Also, keep in mind that the bloody show is not the same as the brownish, bloody discharge you might experience after a vaginal exam at a prenatal appointment, which is no cause for concern.

Beginning of Labor: Contractions

The big tip-off that you're in labor is the start of regular uterine contractions. At first, these early contractions feel like menstrual cramps or a low backache that comes and goes at 20- to 30-minute intervals. Gradually, the aching or cramping becomes stronger and lasts longer. The contractions also get more frequent, until they come every three to five minutes. To time your contractions, write down the exact time each one begins and how long it lasts.



Member comments

The Chart
Love the chart. Very helpful as far as knowing when to worry and when to let it be. Lord knows we've..

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