Signs of Labor: In My Experience
I have always felt that personal experiences are very useful, especially in situations where there really are no set signs. Medical professionals of all kinds have done what they can to note what set of symptoms most commonly occur when a women's body signals it's time for labor to begin, though they don't always make sense or aren't descriptive enough to easy a woman's mind in this crazy time.
So I would like to offer my first hand experiences to those who are looking. I can't guarantee that it will be any more calming then other lists of signs and symptoms, but it's my hope that I might be able to offer more detail then most lists I have read. It won't prepare you completely, as nothing but your own experience really can, though it's here for you non the less.
Remember that even with my experiences out in the open, that every woman's experience is different. For some it's only slightly different, while for others it's wildly different. Even with my own experiences, I can tell you that every birth is different, even in the same woman. It is going to be the experience with my second son that will help the most with this one, as with my first son, I hadn't noticed even the slightest warning of approaching labor. At 38 weeks, my water broke and that was it. With my second son, it was a whole new experience and definitely more pronounced.
For about two weeks before labor began, my body started to do the strangest thing. I would get so hot that it felt as though someone had lit a fire around me that just wouldn't quit. I could lay in the coldest room with nothing on and still be sweating buckets.
The worst of it came anytime I laid down and especially if I was laying on my back. This was especially difficult given how tired I was at the time, and was hard to put up with when my doctor simply kept telling me that it was normal and no specific indication of anything other than hormones surging through my body.
Fatigue Then Energy
I become more and more exhausted as those two weeks went on, but strangely, my body didn't seem to want to sleep as much as I felt I needed to. I would go through periods of sleeping for 4 to 6 hours and then getting up and feeling the need to work or do chores around the house. This wasn't easy though, as my body pretty much rejected any form of work that included standing up, yet it persisted that things needed to be done. I could only do so much before needing to rest again, but I went with it, knowing that fighting it wasn't going to help either.
I started to feel completely drained, yet unable to sleep. It was the worst form of insomnia, which is a common sign of impending labor.
Everything in my pelvic region started to hurt worse then it had before. Muscles, bones, tissues. This pregnancy didn't make me a stranger to pelvic pain, as I'd been achy down there for a while, but something was very different about it this time. It hurt all over and wasn't helped when the baby would bounce up and down on my cervix. It started to feel as though I had been bruised all over down there, and no change in position would take it away. Though the pain wasn't unbearable though, which made me wonder if it was just normal pains or something more. It hurt more than a nuisance, but it was less than crippling. It reserved me to avoid walking as much as possible.
Under normal circumstances this would be TMI, but when you're pregnant, thinking of certain subjects as gross kind of go out the window. As it were, a few days before full on active labor came, I could tell my body was preparing. It would take no more than an hour before anything I ate came right back out. I almost felt like a human processing plant. Food went in and came out at an amazing speed, as though my body was determined to make sure there was nothing left in the pipes before baby came.
After some time, I started to lose much of my appetite. Partially from being tired of spending twice as much time in the bathroom, and partially because my body was signalling it was time to stop putting thing in. After that, it was all gas, which was almost reassuring in a strange way.
When the contractions started, I admit I was a bit excited. Though part of me was fighting this excitement, because braxton hicks contractions are so common in the third trimester, that I wasn't sure if that was the cause of the contractions.
Another reason I had such a hard internal battle, was because the contractions didn't hurt all that bad. My uterus would tighten, which I could feel on the outside of my stomach where there wasn't too much "padding", and I could also feel from the muscles around my uterus. Though they squeezed, it still didn't hurt to bad. I would equate it to having a bad stomach ache that came and went. Though just about every ten or fifteen minutes I would have a contraction that took the breath from me. Even without the pain, I found myself breathing deeply with the contractions until they passed.
When the contractions came to be about 10 minutes apart, though not completely regular, I decided it was time to go see the doctor, to which they confirmed it was active labor.
When you're pregnant, menstrual like cramping can either be stretching muscles in your lower pelvis, or they can be a sign that your cervix is dilating. In my case, the fact that the menstrual cramping coincided with my contractions, was definitely a sign that labor was continuing to develop.
Nothing beats a woman's intuition when it comes to looking for signs of impending or growing labor. No matter what signs or symptoms you get along with it, your mothers intuition will tell you when it's time. Your fight or flight instinct will kick in, which can be confusing when you try to pair it with logic. One part of you might feel you need to find a cool dark place to hole up in, while the rest of you may want to rush to the hospital. This is usually when the nesting instinct kicks in, making you want to both sleep and to get things ready for baby.
Either way, trust your intuition. When it really is time, you will know.
To shorten things up, it has been my experience that the signs of labor are:
*Constant Bowel Emptying
Alternatively, you might also have no signs and just lose your water before any of this starts, as happened with my first son. You could also have various other signs and symptoms, which is why it's so important to pay attention to your intuition.