The closer the due date comes, the more impatient we are for our babies to be born. We’ve had enough of pregnancy and are sick of being the size of a house. It’s no picnic for our other halves either, to be fair – and they don’t have the advantage of knowing exactly how we feel. So, if you’re waiting anxiously for a new arrival, what are the signs your wife is about to go into labour?
More Braxton Hicks contractions
These are ‘practice’ contractions that can start surprisingly early in a pregnancy. There’s a tightening of the uterus, and the abdomen hardens before relaxing again. They might cause discomfort but aren’t usually painful. However, towards the end of pregnancy, they can be more intense and frequent. It’s not unknown for them to be confused with the real thing. Don’t panic – ‘real’ labour could still be days away. But it’s an indication your baby will be on its way soon.
The baby ‘drops’
This is also known as ‘lightening’ – when the baby settles into the pelvis ready for birth. It usually happens a few weeks before labour for first-time mothers, but often not until real labour begins in subsequent pregnancies. Because the baby drops, it tends to relieve the pressure on the mum-to-be’s diaphragm. This makes it easier for her to breathe – hence ‘lightening.’ The flip-side is it puts more pressure on the bladder, so there’ll be more bathroom breaks! If the baby was right up under the ribcage, it’s really noticeable when the bump ‘drops.’
The nesting instinct
Some women get a sudden burst of energy a few days before they give birth. If you come home and find the mum-to-be cleaning and reorganising the house, take note! However, others feel absolutely exhausted – just like they did in the very early days. They might feel the need to nap all the time. Either way, it’s a sign that labour will start soon.
There’s a ‘show’
The plug of mucous that seals off the uterus is often discharged a few days before labour. It’s often in one large piece – though not always – and is thick and pinkish in colour. Some women don’t have a show until they’re in delivery, so don’t worry if this doesn’t happen.
Cramps, back pain and looser joints
Pregnant women often get cramps and increased pain in the lower back and groin as they get closer to labour. It’s nothing to worry about – just the body preparing to give birth. The joints might also feel a bit looser and more relaxed. Again, it’s a way of preparing for what’s to come.
The cervix dilates
During a routine examination, the midwife or health professional may say the cervix has started to dilate. Don’t get too excited – labour doesn’t officially start until it’s at 4cm or more. But the cervix is likely to open a couple of centimetres as a sign it’s on its way.
A touch of diarrhoea
As the uterus relaxes to prepare for the birth, so do other muscles – which can lead to diarrhoea. It’s completely normal so make sure your partner doesn’t feel embarrassed. She just needs to make sure she takes on extra liquid to stay hydrated. It’s a positive sign.
Her waters break
On television or in the movies, waters breaking are always portrayed most dramatically. In real life, it tends to be much more low-key. Most women find their waters don’t break until late in labour. If they do go early, though, it’s important to go to hospital and get checked out as there’s more risk of infection to the baby.