Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy

Symptoms of labor

It remains a fact that pregnancy is unique and different for every woman. Nothing to worry unduly though. Understanding the typical signs and symptoms of pregnancy can help you know what to expect as your due date approaches.


Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may feel the baby settling deep into your pelvis. This is called lightening. The new position your baby takes may give your lungs more room to expand, making it easier to breathe. However, increased pressure on your bladder may send you to the bathroom more often. For first-time pregnancies, lightening may occur weeks or days before labor begins. For subsequent pregnancies, it may not happen so. For some, the changes are obvious, while others may not notice a thing.


You might wake up one morning feeling absolutely energetic, raring to clean up, and arrange things about the house in preparation for baby. This urge to clean and organize is commonly known as nesting. Nesting may begin months before your due date. But the instinct is actually strongest just before delivery. Do what you must, but don’t strain yourself.


Your cervix prepares for birth by softening and thinning, or effacing. But you won’t feel this happening. Your doctor will know in any case. Effacement is often expressed in percentages. When you’re 50 per cent effaced, your cervix is half its original thickness. Your cervix must be 100 percent effaced, or completely thinned out, before a vaginal delivery.


As labor nears, your cervix will also begin to open or dilate. Your doctor will measure the dilation in centimeters from zero to 10. Progress may be very slow at first. In fact, some women are dilated 2 to 3 centimeters for days or even weeks before labor actually begins. Once you’re in active labor, you’ll begin to dilate more quickly.

Bloody Show

Throughout pregnancy, a thick plug of mucus blocks the cervical opening to guard the uterus from bacterial infections. When your cervix begins to thin and open, this plug may be discharged. You may notice thin mucus or a thick discharge that’s typically brown and sometimes tinged with blood. Losing the mucus plug is a sign that labor may begin soon – but it’s not a guarantee. Labor may still be a week or more away.

Your Water Breaks

The amniotic sac is a fluid-filled membrane that cushions your baby in the uterus. Sometimes, the sac leaks or breaks before labor begins. If this happens, you may notice a trickle or rush of fluid. If your water breaks at home – or if you’re uncertain whether the fluid is amniotic fluid – consult your doctor right away.

If the amniotic sac is no longer intact, timing becomes important. The longer the membranes are ruptured, the greater the risk of developing infection. If labor doesn’t begin on its own, your doctor may need to induce your labor. In the meantime, don’t do anything that could introduce bacteria into your vagina – including indulging in intercourse.


During the last few months of pregnancy, you may experience occasional, painless contractions – a sensation that your uterus is tightening and relaxing. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions and they are your body’s way of warming up for labor.

You may find that as the due date approaches, these contractions may become stronger or even painful. And eventually these contractions will be replaced by real contractions. You can tell the difference between false labor and the real thing by considering the following factors:

Pattern: Time your contractions from the start of one to the start of the next. Look for a regular pattern of contractions that get stronger and closer together. Contractions that come at least every five minutes are likely to be the real thing. The contractions of false labor will remain irregular.

Duration: Measure the length of each contraction by timing when it begins and when it ends. True contractions last more than 30 seconds at first and get progressively longer – up to 75 seconds – and stronger. With false labor, contractions vary in length and intensity.

Manageability: True contractions continue regardless of your activity level or position. In fact, they often grow stronger with increased activity, such as walking. With false labor, you may be able to stop the contractions by changing your activity or position, lying down or even taking a walk.

Location: The pain of true contractions tends to begin high in the abdomen, radiating throughout the abdomen and lower back. With false labor, the contractions are often concentrated in the lower abdomen.

False Alarms

False alarms are common during the final phase of pregnancy, as the boundary between your body’s preparation for labor and the actual process of labor is not always clear. Some women have painful contractions for days with no cervical changes. Others feel only a little pressure or a backache as the cervix gradually dilates. But don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you wonder whether you are in labor. Early pregnancy can be dangerously unobtrusive. If you have any signs or symptoms of labor before 36 weeks – especially if they’re accompanied by vaginal spotting – see your doctor immediately.

At term, labor will nearly always make itself apparent. If you arrive at the hospital in false labor, don’t feel embarrassed or frustrated. Instead, think of it as a practice run. As the real thing is sure to be on its way!


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