This is the most common question for first time mummies. There are many MANY different possible signs of labor – loose stools, cramps, leakage, tummy ‘dropping’ etc… but none of these are certain. The most certain signs of labor are only the below 3, taught to me by my gynae:
- Bleeding. It can start off as spotting at first. But once it becomes a patch of blood (like the start of menses), it’s time to leave for the hospital.
- Water bag bursting. This is the sign that has received the most ‘publicity’ (re: movies and dramas). What we see most on media is when the water bag has a big hole, and there is a gush of fluid. It is hard to miss that. However, it can also be that the defect on the water bag is small, and fluid slowly leaks or drips from the vagina. It will be continuous and cannot be controlled, unlike urine. If you experience either case, put on some pads like during a period, and start to leave for the hospital.
- Contraction pains. Apparently this is the most confusing of the three, since pains can be observed throughout pregnancy (and also during our regular menses!). How to differentiate labor pains from baby’s kicking, from tummy upsets or pelvic pains from the heavy tummy?Firstly, these pains occur in the abdominal area (not stomach, so it’s not tummy ache or diarrhea or constipation). Secondly, they persist, their intervals shorten and intensity becomes greater as time passes. Thirdly, the contraction pains are regular. Meaning you experience them every 15 minutes consistently, or every 5 minutes consistently, not once at 9am and another at 915am and then a break before another at 12noon. In the event of experiencing any abdominal pain, rest for an hour first – that is how you will know if the pain is from anything else. If pain does not subside by instead gets more intense and regular, IT IS LABOUR! For 1st pregnancy, leave for the hospital when pain interval is 5 minutes. For subsequent deliveries, labor can progress much faster so leave for the hospital when the pain interval is at 10minutes.
Note that not everyone will experience all 3 of the above labor signs. You may go into labor with only 1, or 2, or all 3 of them. If you still get confused when the time is near, just give your gynae a quick call (they usually have an emergency line), or if the hospital is not too far, stop by for an assessment.