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What to Expect In Pre Labor

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What to Expect In Pre Labor

Jul 5, 2020


Your body may let you know that labor is coming in a couple different ways.  You may experience some of these signs or not all, and in any order. Pay attention to the cues your body is giving you and be aware of the common signs of labor so you when it is time to go the hospital.  You can also consult with your doctor or a doula if you have one.  


Lightening occurs when your baby's starts to drop lower in your abdomen and starts to settle in the pelvis. You may notice that you are suddenly carrying low or that pants feel differently.  Lightening can be great in that you will get some relief from any shortness of breath you might have been having as the pressure moves off your diaphragm - but the pressure moves to your bladder.  


Your cervix softens as it prepares for labor.  Effacement typically happens during the last month, but your health care team may begin checking in the last two months of pregnancy.   The higher the number, the closer you are, 0% meaning no effacement to 100% meaning that you are fully effaced.


Your cervix will also begin to open or dilate as you get closer.  Your health care team will monitor this through a pelvic exam during the later portion of your pregnancy.   Dilation is measured in centimeters (cm); from 0cm (no dilation) to 10cm (fully dilated). Once you have hit 4-5cm, you are typically considered to be in the active stage of labor, once you are fully dilated its time to start pushing.


Many mama’s to be (and some dads) begin to have a final frenzy to clean or organize in those last few weeks.  Whether you want to fix things around the house, clean the garage or clean the kitchen the sixteenth time when its not even dirty, you may be nesting.  If you get this burst of energy before baby comes, enjoy it, but be sensible about what you do.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

“False contractions” are intermittent and usually painless contractions that occur in the final months of pregnancy.  They can be triggered by activity,  dehydration, a full bladder or even sex. They are irregular with no real increase in frequency.  This is how the uterine muscles strengthen themselves for labor. In order to alleviate them, you can try to drink some water (dehydration), change positions, or take a bath.  If you feel you contractions become more frequent, rhythmic or painful, you should call your health care provider.

Losing Mucus Plug

Losing your mucus plug is a sign that your cervix is beginning to dilate and that your body is preparing for labor.  It does not mean that you are in labor. It is normal to lose your mucus plug right before you start labor or up to a couple of weeks before labor.  

Bloody Show

While your cervix starts to thin and open, it releases mucus and causes small blood vessels to break, resulting in the bloody show.  It should appear as pink colored mucus, NOT as active red bleeding. If you have significant amounts of bright red bleeding during the pregnancy at ANYTIME, you should immediately contact your health care provider.  

Regular Contractions

They may occur anywhere from 20 to 5 minutes apart, gradually moving closer together. They will typically start out short (last about 30 seconds) and continue to increate in length, frequency and intensity.  Many women feel like the contractions start in the lower back and move toward the front of the belly. Your uterus uses these contractions to progress labor forward.  When your contractions are happening in a consistent length and frequency, you are beginning labor.

Water Breaking

Thinking you won’t be prepared and this will happen at the worst possible time?   Don't worry, its less common that you think. Having your water break as the first sign of labor actually only happens 10% or less of the time. 

Typically, your water breaks later in labor when the pressure being created by your contractions ruptures the membranes surrounding the bag of waters.

If your water does break, it is important to know that it can happen in a couple of ways.  You could experience a large gush of amniotic fluid or a slow but steady trickle like your urinating. 

Urine has color and odor and usually stops after your bladder is empty. Amniotic fluid is usually clear and odorless and the leakage would continue after your bladder was empty. If your fluid is green, brown or has a foul smelling odor, be sure to contact your health care provider.

Want to find a Doula?

If you are in the Cincinnati or Dayton, Ohio area – look no further.  Tamara Kankowski is a certified birth and postpartum doula as well as a childbirth educator.   Tamara provides support to families everyday across the region. Tamara has an affordable birth doula package that includes personalized support during your pregnancy, labor and delivery that continues through your first eight weeks postpartum.  Contact Tamara today to set up a free consultation!

If you are outside the area, is a great resource to find doulas in your area or go online and see if there are Meet the Doula events near you!

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