During the last trimester your body starts to prepare for birth. This can be a confusing time and up-and-down hormones don’t help. Knowing when you’re in labour and when to go to hospital when pregnant could help you feel more confident in the final few weeks.
having a show
The ‘show’ can be the first sign that you’re ready for labour. During pregnancy, a mucus plug builds up in your cervix. As your cervix prepares for birth, it opens up and the plug comes away. The show is usually a stringy, jelly-like discharge and can be blood tinged or have old brownish blood in it.
When you have a show, you'll probably wonder am I in labour? Things may be imminent or you might have a bit of a wait – labour could begin in a few hours or a few weeks yet.
Your waters breaking can feel like a light trickle or a sudden gush. This is the surest sign that baby is on the way and you should contact your midwife.
If you’re unsure yours has broken, wear a panty liner (don’t use a tampon). If it's still wet in an hour’s time, it’s time to call the midwife. Your water is usually the colour of straw and could be mistaken for wee. If you notice fresh period-like blood, get to the hospital as soon as possible.
real contractions versus a trial run
Contractions can come throughout your pregnancy, or just in your labour first stage, and it’s important to know the difference between a real contraction and Braxton Hicks – there’s nothing worse than bundling yourself off to the hospital just to be sent home after a false alarm.
A contraction is when the womb tightens and relaxes to push your baby down and open your cervix. The best way to describe 'true' labour pains is like intense period cramps. Braxton Hicks is usually a painless tightening of the abdomen. If you’re unsure, call your midwife for advice.
time your contractions
You won't want to rush to hospital as soon as your contractions start – although you’re excited to meet baby, they could keep you waiting a while yet. Until active labour starts, you’ll be a lot more comfortable at home. Time your contractions carefully (if you’re in pain, get your partner to help).
Contact the hospital and prepare to go in once they’re lasting 30 to 40 seconds and come every five minutes. Another way to spot when you should make the call is when your contractions become too painful to speak through.
make yourself comfortable
Labour is a long and tiring process. Here are a few ways you can keep comfortable while waiting to go to hospital:
- keep fluid levels up
- move around slowly to relieve the pain
- try breathing exercises
- get your birth partner to rub your back
When you notice the signs of labour, remind yourself you can do this. Childbirth is natural and your birth partner and midwife are here for you every step of the way. Remember, it’s not long now until that precious moment when you meet your new arrival.