Signs of Labor

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Labor is triggered by several hormonal and physical changes.  There are many signs of labor; some are early and others come directly before delivery. Many of the early signs are vague, such as cramps and contractions, which may easily be misinterpreted as normal discomfort of late pregnancy or Braxton Hicks contractions.  The early signs of labor will vary from woman to woman.       


Signs of Labor    


Water Breaking

Only a small minority of women, around 8%, have their amniotic fluid breaking before they start having regular contractions. The feeling may vary from a small leak to a huge gush of fluid. 

Eighty percent of women spontaneously go into labor within 12 hours after their water breaks.


Strong Contractions

Many women experience contractions during the last few weeks of pregnancy, called Braxton Hicks contractions, but they rarely get strong or regular. In order to quell them eat or drink something or change your position.

In contrast, actual labor contractions won’t subdue until delivery. They get more intense and frequent over time. Contractions will happen from ten to eight to five to three minutes apart, and they feel like a tight band that starts in the back across to the front of the belly.



During pregnancy, the cervix stays closed to protect your baby from infection. Before delivery, the cervix begins to dilate in preparation for labor. Blood vessels can tear as the cervix opens, tinting the discharge with blood (known as “bloody show”). At this point, labor could be hours, days, or even weeks away, but these are hints that the cervix is changing.



During the early part of labor, your body begins to release prostaglandin, a hormone like substance, that causes the uterus to contract and dilate the cervix. Prostaglandins can also hyper-stimulate the intestines, causing frequent bowel movements or even diarrhoea.



A lot of pregnant women suffer from back pains for months. But when the pain becomes extremely harsh, this can be a sign of experiencing “back labor”, which is a constant pain that spread to the abdomen but is mostly concentrated in the back.


Stages of Labor – Early labor& active labor


During early labor:

  • Cervix will start to dilate.
  • Strong and regular contractions that last 30-60 seconds and come every 5 to 20 minutes.
  • Bloody show.

Early labor can be experienced from a few hours to a few days, especially for first-time moms.


At this stage:

  • Stay at home during this time. There is no need to go to the hospital.
  • Take a walk in or around the house.Watch TV or listen to music.
  • Change positions.

During active labor:

  • Contractions will become stronger, longer and more painful.
  • The time between contractions will shorten.
  • Strong pressure in lower back.
  • Cervix dilates about 7 centimeters

At this stage:

Once contractions are stronger and regular repeating every 2 to 4 minutes it is time to go to the hospital if you are not already there.



During Transition the cervix dilates to the full 10 centimeters necessary for delivery and you are then ready to deliver your baby.


Delivery of Your Baby:

During the second stage of labor, your cervix becomes fully dilated and ready for childbirth. You will be guided by your medical team when to push and when to rest until your baby is delivered.

This stage can last from 20 minutes to several hours (especially for first-time moms).

When you baby is born the umbilical cord will be cut and then the placenta will be delivered.


Delivery of Placenta

During the third stage of labor, the placenta is delivered.

Contractions will begin 5 to 10 minutes after birth.

It will take 5 to 30 minutes to deliver the placenta.


No two births are the same even with the same woman.  You will be guided by your medical team.  If you have any doubts in early labor contact your doctor or hospital for further advice on when you need to get to the hospital and what you can do meanwhile to stay active and minimise any discomfort.

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