Although your due date will provide you and your healthcare provider with a general idea of when your baby will be ready for birth, there is no way to predict the exact timeframe that delivery will take place. Many women wonder how they will know the difference between false labor and true labor. Knowing when to call your healthcare provider or start making your way to the hospital is important.
As your due date draws closer, your body will make necessary preparations for the upcoming delivery.
Lightening: As the baby moves into the head-down position to prepare for birth, many women notice a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic area and a sense of relief within the diaphragm, making breathing easier. This sign of labor is often referred to as the baby “dropping.”
Braxton Hicks Contractions: As your due date draws near, Braxton Hicks contractions usually become more frequent and some women find them uncomfortable, though not painful. These “practice” contractions will remain irregular and will not become stronger. However, when uterine contractions become closer together, longer and stronger, it is a sign that true labor has begun.
Cervical Changes: As labor approaches, the cervix will make incredible changes. The once closed and firm cervix will begin to open (dilate) and soften (efface) in order to allow the baby to pass through the vagina. Your healthcare provider will check for cervical changes in the late weeks of pregnancy. Because cervical changes occur slowly in the early stages of labor, it is not uncommon for women to experience cervical dilation of 2-3 cm for days, or even weeks, before the onset of active labor.
Mucus Plug: During pregnancy a small amount of mucus formed to seal the cervix, which prevents infection from entering the womb. As the cervix begins to dilate, the plug is expelled. Some women may experience one large clump with a bloody tint, while others experience a blood-tinged vaginal discharge for several days.
Nesting: Some women may experience a sudden burst of energy and urge to clean the house, organize items, rearrange furniture, etc. before the onset of labor. While it may be hard to refrain from giving in to these feelings, save your energy for the upcoming labor!
Rupture of Membranes: This is also known as “water breaking” and once this occurs, delivery should take place within 24 hours to prevent fetal infection. Some women may experience a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina, while others will notice a continuous trickle that cannot be stopped.
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