1. Contractions and tightening
If you’ve had Braxton Hicks (practise) contractions, you’ll be familiar with the wave of tightening across your womb. An early sign of labour can be irregular contractions that stop and start. Early labour contractions are more intense than Braxton Hicks ones, although they’re actually surprisingly manageable.
2. Your waters break in a gush
‘Waters breaking’ refers to the membrane around your baby breaking, releasing amniotic fluid. Get excited, as this means you’re within 24 hours of starting labour. Sometimes waters can gush out. We’ve all seen this happen on television – and for once, dramas aren’t exaggerating, as it really does come out with a big splash! If your waters are a greenish colour, smelly, or bloody let your midwife know.
3. Your waters break in a trickle
However, sometimes your waters can leak out slowly in a warmish trickle. If you’re not sure whether this means that your waters have broken, wear a panty liner for an hour – if this is wet, they’ve broken. Whichever way your waters break, alert your midwife that things have started happening.
4. You’ve had the show – is it time to tell?
‘The show’ is the mucus plug that comes away from your cervix when labour is near. It’s about the size of a 20 pence coin, and looks like slightly bloody clear jelly. You don’t need to do anything – it’s simply a sign that you will soon meet your little one. If your show has fresh blood and looks a bit like your period you should let your midwife know.
5. It feels like it’s your time of the month
You feel achy and your tummy is cramping. You can’t get comfy, no matter how hard you try, as your lower back is hurting. On top of this, you’re feeling rather grumpy and generally fed-up. Yes, the early signs of labour can be very like the start of your period
What should I do?
Give your midwife a quick call to let them know that you think your labour has started. Then just try to relax and rest before things really get going. Your midwife will tell you when you need to go to the hospital if you are having a hospital birth, or when a midwife will be coming to your home if you are having a home birth.
A few things no-one tells you…
Once you have been to hospital and been sent home 2 times, you will no longer be able to go home and will have to stay in the hospital as an outpatient until you are 5cm dilated, at which point you will then be transferred to the Birth Centre/Maternity ward.
Sometimes your contractions can be very regular at home but as soon as you get to the hospital they can stop! This can be really disappointing – the reason is that you may be more relaxed at home and once you get to the hospital your body will naturally tense up! So try to ensure that your contractions are fully regular before you head to the hospital.
Make sure you know where to park beforehand as that too can take up a lot of time!