The movies make it look so obvious– a big gush of water and off to the hospital they go. Unfortunately, the membranes will rupture to set off labor in less than 15% of births. Here is how to decide if what you are feeling is true labor or just practice for the main thing.
When you are within days of the big moment, it is hard to not get caught up in the excitement and head off to the hospital without being sure. Nonetheless, hospitals won’t be shy to send you back home if you are not in actual labor. Try your best to stay calm and if ever you are unsure, call your doctor or midwife.
Rupturing of the membranes
As mentioned above, this will only occur in very few births, but it really is the most clear sign that it is baby time. Generally, the waters will break sometime during active labor. So if you are one of the lucky few, you know it is for real. This may come as a slow trickle (Am I peeing my pants?) or a solid gush. Discuss with your doctor or midwife beforehand on when to head to the hospital after your water breaks. It isn’t necessarily a huge race to the hospital, however, if you tested GBS+ they will likely want you in quickly to begin antibiotics. Be sure to not insert anything into your vagina once you believe your water has broken as there is a serious risk of infection without the membrane intact.
Clearing of the bowels
Unpleasant to hear, yes, but honestly you are about to give birth! When you notice that your system seems to be clearing itself out, there is a good chance things are about to swing into gear.
A drastic change in attitude can be a sign that your body is preparing itself for the big feat ahead. Try a relaxing bath to calm your nerves and help mentally prepare yourself for this life-changing moment.
An uncontrollable urge to clean and organize is your body’s way of getting the last minute details cleaned up. Use this energy to get your house nice and tidy for when you arrive back home.
As you get closer to labor, your cervix is already dilating and effacing (opening and thinning). As this happens, the “plug” that fills your cervix will begin to break away and pass. You can lose parts of your mucus plug for several weeks before real labor begins, as it will regenerate itself, but it is a little more real if there is blood passing with it. However, be mindful that after internal exams and intercourse, bloody show can also occur. So don’t jump the gun if you have recently experienced either.
By now you have likely experienced at least a few Braxton Hicks contractions. While these contractions are not real, they are your uterus’ way of practicing for the main event. To know if what you are feeling is just the practice rounds or for real consider this. Real contractions will become stronger, longer and closer together. They will not taper off if you drink a glass of water and lay down to relax.