What Are The Signs Of Labour Starting?

By Anna-Maria Boelskov - February 04, 2018

What should I do when my labour is starting?

When labour is starting, I urge you to pay close attention to what presents for you when and use this time to pull on your network to help you through. Cups of tea with family and friends (one at a time), walks in nature with your loved one and of course talking with your doula, are all ways that can help you through the final stage of pregnancy, and help you process what comes up emotionally.

This emotional side is a part of pre-labour for most women. The signs of labour:

Here are the physical signs of pre-labour and that your labour is starting:

Waters breaking. Usually a trickle rather than a gush of liquids, but either is possible. To check if it is the bag of waters – there is no smell (like urine), and the water should ideally be clear or light yellow (straw coloured) and slowly continue to trickle out. Put on a pad to monitor the flow. Mild contractions or Braxton Hicks may gradually begin to increase, but not necessarily right away.

Please, always advice your Midwife or Obstetrician of your waters breaking. Most hospital policies would prefer that you go into established labour within 24hours once your waters have broken.

If the fluid is any other colour than clear or light yellow please also notify your care providers.

Although the waters may have started to leak the cells in the membranes will continue to produce water, so your baby will not necessarily be going ‘dry'.

• Loss of Mucus Plug or Bloody Show. This is a little plug, roughly the size of a small tampon (ish) this plug protects the baby and womb from infections and sits at the neck of the cervix. You may notice the entire plug coming out or just parts of it. This is a sign that the cervix is ripening and this allows for the plug to fall out. Labour may not necessarily start by losing the plug but is a good indication that your cervix is ripening and dilation is happening. The colour of the plug can be clear, cloudy, yellow, brown, pink or red (bloody). There are tiny little capillaries that break when the plus is dislodged, and this may cause the bleeding.

Again, please notify your care providers and wear a pad so you can monitor any further mucus, fluid or blood. I also recommend taking a picture of the ‘show’ often the midwife would like to have a look at it.

• Braxton Hicks or Contractions. You may have noticed that you have practice contractions throughout your pregnancy (typically start in the early-mid of the 2nd trimester) these are called Braxton Hicks (BH). As your pregnancy progresses and once you hit the 38 weeks mark of your pregnancy your BH may be getting more noticeable and more frequent. When the BH become more intense and last for longer than 30-45 seconds, it is a sign of contractions. Please, note that a baby is not likely to come until you have very strong contractions that last 90seconds and are very frequent.

Read my suggestions for natural ways to start labour here.

What's the average length of a pregnancy for first time mothers?

The average length of a pregnancy (for first-time mothers) is 41 weeks + 2 days. So don't get too worried if you haven't gone into labour yet - your body and baby will get there. As Dr Sarah Buckley says: "Every pregnant person will eventually go into labour!"
In doubt and looking for answers? As a doula, I’m on call for you from 38 weeks until the birth of your baby. I’m here to support you and answer all your questions at any time. You can email me or read more about my doula work here.
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