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Signs of Labour: All you need to know

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So you are now in the third trimester of pregnancy, and due date is around the corner. What should you expect when it comes to labour? What if early labour comes?

As you approach your due date, every cramp or discomfort can make you wonder if this is it. Even the most subtle changes can indicate that you are in labour. It is thus important to watch out for the signs of labour to indicate you are due.

This article will explore the important points of labour:

  • When will you go into labour?
  • False signs of labour
  • Difference between real and false labour
  • Signs of active labour
  • When should you go to a hospital?
  • Hear from other mummies about their labour experience in Singapore

 

When will I go into labour?

There is really no telling when the baby will arrive, not unless you undergo a medical induction. More than ninety percent of babies will arrive between week 37 and week 42 of pregnancy.

Only about three to five percent of babies are born on their estimated due dates, while some woman give birth before 37 weeks (pre-term) and other woman deliver past 41 weeks (late term).

Your doctor will monitor your health to ensure that you and your baby’s health are well no matter which week of pregnancy that you deliver your baby.

 

What is a False Sign of Labour?

Before your actual labour, you might have false signs of labour, which is also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. In fact, Braxton Hicks contractions have been present since the second trimester, and it is your baby basically preparing for the real thing.

Unlike real labour, Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause significant and progressive dilation of your cervix, and the contractions come and go.

 

How do I tell the difference between a false sign of labour or real labour?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a false and real labour. Real labour usually happens from week 37, and here’s how you can tell the difference:

  • Real labour contractions are regular and stronger and happen at short intervals (approx. every 5 minutes) between the contractions. It will become more and more intense, and also last longer (each more than 45 seconds)
  • False labour contractions may go away if you change position or do an activity such as walking
  • Real labour contracts become more intense no matter what you do
  • False labour contractions are centered in your lower abdomen. Real labour contractions are centered in your pelvic area.

 

What are Signs of Early Labour?

There are many early signs of labour that are the same as pregnancy symptoms, and that is why it can be difficult to tell apart these early signs of labour.

  • Braxton hicks contractions. This is your body getting ready for the real thing. These contractions come and go and usually go away if you change positions. 
  • Diarrhoea. In the days prior to birth, your body will produce the pregnancy hormone prostaglandin. This hormone will help your uterus to contract, but it can also cause diarrhoea as your body empties your bowels to make way for the baby. 
  • Lower back pain. You may experience a persistent lower backache that feel like period pains. 
  • Lightening. This is the dropping of the baby into the mother’s pelvis. As the baby moves downward in preparation for delivery, you will feel a downward pressure on your pelvic area. You will be able to breathe more easily, but you will have to take more trips to the toilet as your uterus is now pressing against your bladder. 
  • Bloody show / mucus plug. During labour, your cervix will begin to dilate and the thick mucus plug which sealed off your cervix during pregnancy (to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus) will come loose and be discharged from the vagina. The mucus plug might be watery or have a sticky and thick appearance, and might have a tinge of brown, red or pink. From this point of discharge, it can be hours, days or even weeks to the point of actual labour. 

 

What are signs of Active Labour? 

So if you experienced the signs of early labour, this means that you will soon be going into active labour. Here are some typical signs that you have progressed from early labour to active labour:

  • Water breaking. If you think your water breaking is going to be like what you see in the movies, well sorry to say that it probably isn’t that dramatic. How your water breaks varies a lot, from a trickle to gush of liquid. Do note that not all women’s water will break, in fact only about ten percent of women will experience the rupturing of the amniotic sac.
  • Regular, intense and painful contractions. Real contractions are more frequent and get more progressive. This is basically your cervix dilating from 4cm to about 10cm. With real contractions, they get more intense, coming at least every 5minutes and lasting at least 45seconds each.

 

When should I go to the hospital?

You might be unsure of when you should go to the hospital once early labour starts. If you are unsure, give a call to the clinic or your doctor who can provide you guidance.

They will judge what you have been experiencing and whether you are in active or early labour and advise you accordingly. Depending on what you are experiencing, you may be asked to go to the hospital immediately or asked to stay at home for a while longer.

Do contact the clinic or doctor if:

  • Signs of active labour (as per above)
  • You have unbearable pain
  • Baby isn’t moving
  • Water breaks, or if you are leaking amniotic fluid
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Severe headache or sudden swelling
  • You feel that something is wrong

If you feel that something is wrong with either you or your baby, trust your instinct and go to the hospital immediately, especially if you can’t get your doctor on the phone.

 

What was Labour like for you?

Some BabyTalk fans recall their early labour experience in Singapore:

“It was about 3pm, I had a bloody discharge which looked like menses, and was told by my gynae to go to the clinic. When I reached my gynae checked and told me I was already 4cm dilated. He sent me to the observation ward and I was put on drips. At about 9pm my water broke and my contractions started becoming painful. Gynae came about 1030pm and while checking on my dilation, he noticed a greenish discharge. Turns out my baby has pooped inside my belly. Had to do an emergency c-sect. Gynae said after that my baby was stressed due to the contractions.” – Linda Tan

“I did not experience any contractions my entire pregnancy, so as soon as I felt mild period like pains, I knew I was in early labour. My husband was terribly excited and asked that we go straight to the hospital. Upon reaching the hospital my contractions stopped and after a few hours I was sent home under the instructions of my Doctor.” – Goh Yu Ting

“I had a bloody discharge early in the morning at 7am when I woke up to pee. There were no other signs so I wanted till 9am when the clinic opened and called them. Doctor said to rest at home first. Waited till about 6pm and still no sign of labour. I called the hospital, and they told me to go in since I was 40 weeks pregnant. Went in and checks showed I was only 1cm dilated, so they asked me to go home. The next day contractions started and I went back to the hospital and was checked in.” – Sarah Chew

“My contractions started off mildly, slowly growing in intensity. After about 45mins, it got quite bad and I felt like I had to empty my bowels with each contraction. I called my Doctor (thankfully it was in the middle of the day) and he told me to not go to the hospital yet, since my water had not broken and I didn’t have a bloody show. It was the next day that I had a bloody discharge and I went to the hospital after.” – Tan Si Min

“I was kiasu, and went to the hospital as soon as I felt mild contractions. They checked and found out I was 3cm dilated, and told me I could go home as it was not yet time, since I did not yet have any other signs of labour. I felt bad for activating my entire family to go with me to the hospital when it was not yet time.” – Penelope Quek

“I started having mild contractions in the morning, so I called my gynae and he told me to head to the hospital if the contractions get more intense. At about 4pm the contractions started becoming more regular and intense, so I went to the hospital, and they found I was 6cm dilated. I gave birth about 3 hours after I went to the hospital” – Wen Mei

 
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