Preparing for the arrival of a new baby can feel overwhelming, but expectant mothers should know that their body will send them a couple of signs to let them know that their baby will be meeting them very soon. That being said, a lot of what you think happens, thanks to scenes from movies and television shows, is not exactly accurate and every mother actually goes through different experiences.
We want to offer a helping hand to all the mothers-to-be out there with a list of all the things they might experience shortly before labor starts.
1. The baby “drops”
Your baby dropping, also known as lightening, is the sign for when your baby’s head “drops” lower into the pelvis, moving in between the mother’s pubic bones. Often, mothers will feel their baby “drop,” but this can also happen without them feeling anything. Generally, a baby will drop about 2 weeks before they deliver if they’re their mother’s first child, but dropping time becomes harder to predict with every successive baby.
2. Cramps and increased back pain
An expecting mother can feel an increase in back pain and cramps as the baby grows inside her. While the baby’s added weight is a contributor to this, it’s not the only reason it happens. Hormone changes, muscle separation, and even stress can also increase these pains.
3. Loose-feeling joints
As mentioned, woman’s hormones can impact her muscles and joints during pregnancy. 2 hormones, relaxin and progesterone, relax the muscles which help to loosen ligaments and joints, especially in the pelvic area. The rectal abdominal muscles can also separate along the center seam as the uterus expands.
A woman can experience diarrhea throughout her pregnancy, both due to hormones and diet changes made to give her baby the nutrients they need. During the third trimester, however, it can be a sign that labor is near as it helps prepare the mother to give birth.
5. Weight gain stops
An expectant mother should experience weight gain even into her third trimester. However, toward the end, they might notice their weight stays the same and can even decrease. This is because mothers at this point should be losing levels of amniotic fluid and other liquids. Despite this, the baby should still gain weight, so the mother’s weight evens out.
6. Fatigue and a “nesting instinct”
Toward the end of a woman’s pregnancy, she might experience some of the feelings she went through in the beginning: tiredness and an urge to nest (surrounding themselves while they sleep). This isn’t universal, as some mothers might feel more energy as their pregnancy progresses.
7. Vaginal discharge changes its color and consistency
A mother may soon lose her mucous plug which seals off the uterus, coming out all at once or in pieces — although, some women don’t lose it at all. Because of this, vaginal discharge can increase and become thicker. It’s also expected to take on a more pinkish color as labor draws near.
8. Stronger, more frequent contractions
Contractions can predict early labor, but not always. Mothers can experience contractions for months before they finally give birth. Stronger contractions that don’t easily stop are usually a sign that labor is indeed soon, especially if they happen more often and cause pain. Contractions that stop just from the mother changing positions usually are not.
9. The water breaks
While movies and television shows treat water breaking as the first sign of a woman knowing she’s about to go into labor, it really is one of the last signs that happens and not all women go through it — in fact, it only happens in around 15% of births. Despite the name, the sensation of your water breaking is actually the breaking of the membranous sac, or the amniotic sac, which surrounds your baby and is likely caused by a chemical reaction from the baby’s brain signals.