Posted on 08 January 2021 | By Sunnybank Centre for Women | labour
A woman’s body goes through amazing transformations throughout the pregnancy journey to nurture a new life into the world. When it comes to the final delivery, the female body has to exert significant effort to push the baby out and labour is the body’s way of preparing itself.
This preparation process usually occurs sometime after the 37 week mark, during the two or three week period before or after the 40 week due date. It can be quite an intense experience (some women describe it as more painful than the actual birth) so it is useful to know what to expect.
What happens during labour?
There are generally three key stages to labour. In the first phase, your cervix will begin to dilate to enable the baby to come out: the latent phase, the active phase, and the transitions phase. This phase lasts right up until you actually start giving birth.
This is followed by the second phase, when your cervix is completely open and you can start pushing the baby out. Finally, in the third phase the mother will experience a second wave of contractions as the placenta that has been nourishing the baby will separate from the wall of the uterus and be delivered following the baby.
Signs that your labour is starting
- The body releases the mucous plug – the mucous plug normally sits on the cervix to prevent infections from entering the womb but during labour, it may be discharged through the vagina. This is called a bloody show. Like the name suggests, the thickened vaginal discharge and can be brownish or slightly bloody in appearance.
- Your water breaks – this is the rupturing of the water-like membranes that surround and protect the baby in the womb. This may feel like a trickle, but it may also feel like a big gush of fluid being released.
- You feel the baby dropping into your pelvis– this is when the baby’s head (which is most of its weight) drops into your pelvis in preparation for its exit. The change in the baby’s location in the body means that the physical appearance of the belly may look lower, and there may be changes to which organs feel pressure from the baby’s weight.
- Regular contractions – you may experience occasional, irregular contractions before labour (called false contractions or Braxton Hicks contractions) but as get closer to labour, contractions will become regular. The closer you get, the more intense and frequent these contractions will become. Contractions every 45 seconds – 10 minutes may indicate that your labour is starting so recording the timing of your contractions can be a way to monitor your progress.
If you’re not sure if your labour is started, you can go to the hospital and a doctor will conduct a vaginal exam to check how far along you are. If you suspect you’ve started labour and you’re not yet at the 37 week mark, you should contact your OBGYN and present to the hospital as soon as possible.
As an experienced obstetrician, Dr Joseph Jabbour is your specialist support through the pregnancy journey – providing you with professional advice and compassionate care. He offers private consultations at the Sunnybank Centre for Women and The Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, and has admission rights to Sunnybank Private Hospital, Greenslopes Private Hospital, and Mater Brisbane.