It is hard to predict and prepare for labour (no matter how much I wish we all could), but here are some helpful signs that may help you to identify coming into labour.
As a first time mum your baby will generally start to drop into your pelvis a few weeks before labour begins. For those who have had a bub prior to, this dropping my not occur until you are truly in labour.
This dropping can lead to more waddling and bathroom breaks as your baby is now putting a lot more pressure on your pelvis and the organs there. The good news is, you'll have more breathing room.
Cramps and increased back pain
You may feel some extra crampiness and pain in your lower back as your muscles and joints are shifting in preparation for birth.
Just as the muscle in your uterus are preparing for birth so are many other muscles, this can include the rectum, leading to possible diarrhea. This is annoying but completely normal. Be sure to stay well hydrated and know that this is a good sign.
Some mums get a burst of energy (also known as 'the nesting instinct') as their baby's birth nears. You may find yourself unable to resist the compelling urge to clean and organise everything in sight. Again this is normal, just don't go tooo far and overwork your self.
Loss of Mucus plug
Keeping your cervix closed to the outside world is a mucus plug. For some women they will find when they go to the bathroom that either the whole plug or parts of the plug have been expelled. This plug looks a little like the mucus you find in your nose. Know thought that not all women will see this plug removal before active labour.
In the last days before labour, you're also likely to see an increase and thickening of your vaginal discharge. This thick, pinkish discharge is known as the 'bloody show' and is a good indication for your upcoming labour.
Tightening and Braxton Hicks
Contractions are a sign of active labour - except when they're not. Feelings of tightening and Braxton Kicks contractions can be experienced weeks and even months before your labour. You will feel a tightening or pinching as the muscle of the uterus practices the movement of contractions for your big labour event.
How can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and active labour contractions?
Real contractions get stronger, whereas Braxton Hicks seem to ease up
If you change positions, labour contractions don't go away while Braxton Hicks generally do
Real contractions progress, becoming more painful and frequent, falling into a regular pattern. Braxton Hicks contractions come and go without getting more intense over time, they are sporadic
We are all aware of the scenes often shown in movies of a woman's water breaking however this is a very unlikely scenario. Your water breaking is actually one of the final most signs of labour which only occurs naturally in about 15% of woman.
There are many different signs, all of which can be confusing especially to a first time mum. If you are concerned I advise contacting your midwife or doctor to confirm whether you need to head to your chosen place of birth of if you can relax at home a little longer. No matter what, you are on the home stretch now and your baby will come when they are ready. Take as much time as you can to rest, relax and prepare for your new bundle of joy.