One day away from my 37th week mark, I was jolted awake by stomach cramps. It didn’t last long, though it was a different sensation in my pregnancy. My belly felt heavier and I was walking slower. I was supposed to take a half day off at work but I ended up taking a leave for the whole day.
Good thing I had a scheduled checkup with my OB that day, and I found out I was already 1 cm. And yet my doctor wasn’t alarmed at all! She just gave me a list of things to watch out for before making the decision to go to the hospital.
My doctor’s instructions that day proved to be very handy: I went into labor that very afternoon and by evening, my daughter was born. So here’s a checklist of some of the most common things to look out for to know if it’s time for you to meet your baby.
A gentle reminder that every pregnancy and body is different. Some might experience these signs a few weeks before the estimated due date (EDD), similar to what happened to me. If you experience any of these events too far off from your EDD, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
Your water breaking, or more aptly, the amniotic sac breaking, is one of the easiest signs to spot when baby is about to be born. However, there are times when it will not present itself as the first sign of labor, like what happened to me. My water only broke when I was already in the delivery room, preparing to push out my baby.
Contrary to what the movies show us, it’s not always a sudden gush of liquid. It could also manifest as a feeling of wetness in the vagina or perineum or as a constant trickle of liquid, as if leaking urine. If at some point you sense that your water has broken, contact your doctor and go to the hospital so you can get an assessment if you’re leaking amniotic fluid.
Contractions are another telltale sign of labor. It may feel different for each woman, but the best way I can describe it is that it can be likened to really strong menstrual cramps that come and go.
It’s important to time contractions once they start. My doctor advised me to get ready to go to the hospital once I experience contractions every 3-10 minutes in an hour, each lasting between 40 seconds to a minute.
It could help to take note of the “511 rule”: If contractions are coming regularly at 5 minutes apart, with each one lasting at least 1 minute, and have been following this pattern for at least 1 hour, it’s a good idea to go.
Despite a scary-sounding name, a bloody show is just a term for the vaginal discharge toward the end of the pregnancy.
For a more scientific explanation, a bloody show occurs when the cervix dilates and the mucus plug is released. Since the cervix is full of blood vessels, some can rupture when the mucus plug dislodges.
I personally experienced it and I can attest that it is not painful (but the contractions are!). Once my husband and I updated my doctor about it, together with the timing of my contractions, she finally gave the go signal for us to proceed to the hospital.
Some of these signs may seem scary and uncomfortable, especially for first-time moms, but just keep an open line with your doctor once you experience some of these or if something feels different. Remember that childbirth is a natural process. Pregnancy has prepared the body for these situations so at the end of the day, you’ll be ready to meet your baby. You got this, mama!