While repeated contractions are most womens’ telltale sign the baby is on the way, contractions alone aren’t always foolproof; often, contractions end up as short-lived “practice” contractions (a.k.a. “Braxton-Hicks” contractions). Below, we’ll cover a few telltale signs that the time has come for mom-to-be, and a few tips to lessen any discomfort you may experience en route to delivery.
1. Water Breaks
Contrary to the melodrama of this event we see on television, for most women the water breaking is relatively mild; usually, little more than a small trickle. However, this is a strong indicator that labor is on the way. While a small minority of women may experience heavier flow, in most cases the amount of fluid is light and easy to manage, and rarely uncomfortable (though exciting!).
2. Stomach Discomfort
Labor, for some mothers, can also be prefaced by mild to moderate gastrointestinal discomfort, including nausea, upset stomach, and/or diarrhea. This also is a normal sign of labor, and can be alleviated by most mild over-the-counter antacids like Tums (again, ensure any medications taken before delivery are doctor-approved). Staying hydrated, avoiding spicy or overly-rich foods, and keeping off your feet as much as possible should help with symptoms effectively as well.
3. Lower Back Pain
Different from the normal aches and pains of carrying a pregnancy for several months, some women (as much as one-third) may experience relatively intense or acute pain in the mid or lower back, depending on baby-to-be’s posture: baby’s skull, for example, can have a tendency to shift and press uncomfortably against the abdomen wall, sometimes resulting in lower back discomfort. Again, doctor-approved over-the-counter pain treatments such as acetaminophen may be appropriate for intense discomfort, but comfortable posture, deep breathing, and some gentle movement are often the best strategies.
4. Extended Contractions
Unlike the phantom, usually short-live contractions moms-to-be may experience leading up to the delivery, true labor contractions are typically strong, repeated, and stick around up through the delivery. While some mothers may seek temporary relief from over-the-counter acetaminophen, relaxation, deep breaths, and a calm posture are often effective in reducing discomfort. Many mothers prefer to avoid treating pre-delivery pregnancy pain with medication, though if required, your doctor can advise you in advance what treatments are safe. In most cases, however, a warm bath, light massage, or, if possible, some gentle movement can be great ways to reduce the intensity of the contractions naturally.
5. Cervical Discharge
If you notice a thick, mucus-like substance, this is also a telltale sign you’re going into labor. Some women may also notice a small amount of blood as well; this is no cause for alarm, should not be painful, and is an ordinary sign that baby is on the way.
As we’ve seen above, your baby-to-be is usually very good at letting you know when it’s time. Keep an eye out for these signs as your due date nears, and if you experience any symptoms of discomfort we’ve mentioned, remember that they are normal, expected, and usually simple to treat while you await the trip to the delivery room.