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Signs of Prelabor

This started out as a letter to a friend of mine, on signs that show your body is gearing up for labor. I'm kind of pleased with how it came out, so I thought I'd post it here. These are the ones I thought of off the top of my head, but I'd appreciate it if any of my doula friends share any that I overlooked. I'll update the post to reflect your contributions. And if you don't mind, I'd love to make a handout of it.

Signs of Prelabor:




*Nesting* - biggest sign here, in my opinion, because most moms will notice this within a week or so leading up to birth. While the stereotype of this is the frantically cleaning mom-to-be, that's a bit exaggerated (it does happen). 'Nesting' is really just a burst of energy, possibly due to pre-labor hormones that are getting your body ready to shift into gear. I didn't have nesting, I had baking. I didn't realize what it was either, because it started 3.5 weeks before 'due date'; Eden was two weeks to the *day* earlier than her EDD (I knew it was estimated, but expected to go over). Anyway, suddenly in mid-February, it hit me that I didn't know how to bake. How the hell could I be a mommy if I didn't know how to make cookies? I baked all week, making all manners of cookies, breads, and pies. Then I had the baby. I didn't actually start cleaning and setting up the baby stuff til my water broke and I said, "Damn, I thought I had two more weeks."

*Increase in vaginal discharge* - I think this is the next common sign. Usually you'll notice a change a day or two before the baby comes. Sometimes more.

*You're dilated* - Happens early for some moms, and that's a really great sign, actually. It doesn't mean labor is imminent, though, especially if you don't have consistent contractions (or 'surges', if that's the word you prefer. I know many women do. Surges are full of power and easy to flow with, while contractions are tight and painful....) My client right now, who is due in a month, is walking around at 2 cm. That's great, cause it shows your body knows what it's doing and should work really well when the time comes to birth your baby.

*You're effaced* - 'Effaced' means your cervix is thinning out. Sometimes it begins before labor actually does. A lot of women pay attention to how many cms they're dilated, and get disappointed if they're laboring for a few hours and learn that they're not any further dilated. However, if they're effacing or the baby has moved further down the birth canal, those are awesome signs of progress.

*You lose your mucus plug* - This is similar to dilation, I think, in that it doesn't necessarily mean birth is that day, but it's definitely a sign that your body is turning down the birth path (and this is likely your last rest stop, lol).

*Stronger or more frequent practice (*irregular*) contractions* - Practice contractions can begin far in advance, too, but if you notice them getting stronger or coming more often, it's likely prelabor. If these at all become regular, even if far apart - like, every hour or half hour - *that's* likely early labor, not prelabor. And that is a great time to get yourself something to eat - make sure it's not too sugary, but it's something that will give you energy while still being easy to digest. Things like scrambled eggs & toast, water, soup, yogurt, water, cream of wheat/oatmeal, cottage cheese, water... You want healthy but light. Your stomach will be doing some work, so now is not the time to celebrate with steak and potatoes. Early labor, when your contractions are regular but still light and far apart, is also a good time to get some sleep. You'll really need to rest. Sometimes eating or sleeping might make the contractions go back to being irregular, or possibly even stop all together. That's ok. Actually, that's really great for you if that's the case, because they'll eventually start back up. It's much better to deal with those after you're well rested and fed.

*Diarrhea* - That's usually a sign that it's getting close. Your body is cleaning out to make way for baby.

*Your membranes rupture* - Sometimes this happens before you go into labor. For me, it happened exactly 12 hours before I started contracting - with both kids. Usually your CP will have a protocol they like to follow when this occurs. Some will want to wait up to 24 hours for your labor to start, but many only prefer waiting 12 hours. As long as there's no problems with you or the baby, they're more likely to wait longer.

I was Group B Strep positive with Ivy, which meant that my midwives wanted me to go in every 4 hours for antibiotics after my water broke. I could have refused, and some women do, but they would have had to switch me to the OB they're affiliated with. I prefered antibiotics and keeping my midwives, since I knew my body would go into labor within 12 hours. I also had to meet them at the hospital within 12 hours, which I did, admittedly to avoid confrontation. I did this because I knew that they're required to follow a certain protocol, and I was saving my fight for the big one - the OB they work with prefers a starting pitocin after 12 hours. I was contracting, but they were still 15-30 minutes apart when I got to the hospital. OB ordered pit, and I *repeatedly* refused. That was my right, and that was most important to me. Midwife was willing to 'let us' try natural stimulation methods, but she was concerned that they were still so light. She knew I was right that my body would pick up and do it once they got started, but she said we 'really need to try to establish a strong contraction pattern'. I said, "Ok, just let me go to the bathroom first. Everybody out," and ended up getting her just in time to come catch a head. :P

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So that's my list, and I appreciate any extras or corrections.

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
iynx
Jun. 9th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
Fascinating! the work you do is amazing and so important in the time of sterile hospital deliveries that send mother and child home within a few days.

My mother's water broke and she didn't know it.

A week later I was born with a temperature of 105 F.

The doctors told her that it was her fault because my parents had intercourse that week. They told her I'd probably be blind and deaf and mentally disabled :)(of course this was 1971).

Funny thing that... I have an IQ of 130, am a little farsighted and only have a slight hearing impairment.

Sometimes it makes me sad to know that I will never go through what you're describing above (incompetent cervix from cervical cancer not to mention chronic nerve pain that requires drugs that would harm a fetus) it seems such a basic part of the experience of being a woman. But the idea that there are women out there like you helping new mothers learn and prepare is wonderful! It must be very satisfying work.
ahavah
Jun. 9th, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC)
Fascinating! the work you do is amazing and so important in the time of sterile hospital deliveries that send mother and child home within a few days.

Thank you so much! I agree with you. In almost every culture, a birthing mother is usually surrounded by her sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters... I really think the birth climate in our country would be much more mother-friendly if we still labored together as women.

The doctors told her that it was her fault because my parents had intercourse that week. They told her I'd probably be blind and deaf and mentally disabled :)(of course this was 1971).

That's awful! That may have been what sparked her water breaking - was that what they meant? I know that you're not supposed to have sex after your water breaks, but if you don't know, how can you be at fault? I'm certainly glad that you proved them wrong!

Sometimes it makes me sad to know that I will never go through what you're describing above (incompetent cervix from cervical cancer not to mention chronic nerve pain that requires drugs that would harm a fetus) it seems such a basic part of the experience of being a woman. But the idea that there are women out there like you helping new mothers learn and prepare is wonderful! It must be very satisfying work.

I'm sorry to hear that. Being a birth doula is the most satisfying work I've ever had. If birth is something that interests you, you should consider taking a doula training course and see if that's for you. :) We need more of them, and the movement is catching steam.

Also, I hope you'll look into other means of having kids if you want them. I know that I hope to one day be in the position where I can adopt. I've also always wanted to be a surrogate mother. Actually, I really feel that's something I'm meant to do in this lifetime, and I completely plan on doing it one day. I'm just slowly acclimating Josh to the idea. ;)
lost_heart_less
Jun. 10th, 2006 06:18 pm (UTC)
wow! that was so informative. i particularly like the part about nesting and baking. and surges verses contractions. and again, thank goodness for your midwife having such get catching skills :-)
ahavah
Jun. 10th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was actually wondering whether or not I should leave the personal anecdotes in there when I make it into a hand out. What do you think?

If I remember correctly, I think I first heard about the surges/contraction thing from Ina May Gaskin. But there's a whole movement about making sure that your word choices for labor birthing are strong, uplifting, and empowering. It makes sense, because the terminology can really effect how pregnant women view birth. If you find yourself at all interested in birth, the book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a MUST. In fact, I think it should be required reading for health/sex ed. It's so powerful. I had a whole list of good birthy books in the archive somewhere. Maybe I'll need to link those to my profile...
lost_heart_less
Jun. 10th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
of course, i'm always interested in someone's personal stories so i'd say leave 'em in, but i suppose it depends on how "formal" these handouts are, ie, who sees them. if they are prospective birth mothers you will be helping, i say it can't hurt. if it's for some formal Doula manual, then it probably would be cut.

i'm only interesting in childbirth from a vovyer standpoint - i will never be pregnant myself and that's by choice. but as a student of life, i like to hear about all aspects of life. and i'm sure that as i am entering a period of rebirth for myself, it's only fitting that i found you! :-)
ahavah
Jun. 10th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)
It is fitting! That's still a good book for a voyer. :) The first half is all birth stories, fantastic ones, too. The second half is geared towards birth professionals, but the birth story portion is worth it!

As for handouts, they would be for prospective clients/birth mothers. Maybe I'll leave them in but professional it up a bit. ;)
mysirensong
Jun. 13th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
What you said about the time between membrane rupture and start of Cx made me remember this ... I was watching Special Delivery on Discovery Health -- a show that usually has me yelling at the TV as it is -- but there was a woman who wanted to have a natural birth. Her water had broken several (10 or so?) hours before, and she'd been having contractions all that time, but wasn't progressing much. Of course, she was in a bed that whole time, not moving around, not getting into different positions to help her progress, etc. After hours of this, with no doula/coach/midwife in sight and the nurses and doctors just clucking their tongues and looking on disapprovingly, and reminding her she had 24 hours from membrane rupture to pushing or they were going to induce, she was exhausted. And they actually had the nerve to say, "Well, now she's just too exhausted from going this long with no pain meds, there's no way she can get into any other positions to help her progress, we're going to have to induce."

The doctor said, on camera, that he "doesn't like to let" a woman go 24 hours after rupturing to giving birth. And they seemed to be so against her doing this naturally that they were trying to "punish" her by not offering any help until she was too exhausted to refuse the petocin drip. I had to turn it off and take a nap, it made me so angry. So, you're saying that sometimes your water breaks and it's 12 hours before *contractions* even start??

I have so much to learn. Can I add you? :)
ahavah
Jun. 13th, 2006 08:49 pm (UTC)
Grrrrrr......

grrrr

I won't even comment on those shows. Just... oh, the birth climate in our country needs so much work! And moms need to know that CPs don't let you do anything - you hire your care provider! They work for you!

Anyway, yes, your water can break any amount of time before labor begins. I've seen some sources say that you could wait as long as 48-72 hours if there's no problem. Afterall, it's not actually a *dry* birth. A laboring mother's body is still constantly creating and replenishing amniotic fluid (again, barring some problems, and mothers who are weeks over their EDD don't always make as much, which is why docs like to monitor moms who are supposedy 'over'.

With both of my children, it was almost exactly 12 hrs later, although I did take castor oil both times. I wanted to be sure I didn't get transferred to the pit-happy OB. I wouldn't be surprised if my next pregnancy was the same way. That just appears to be the way I have babies. :)

And I would be happy to have you add me. I will return the favor, because I often have f-locked posts, Thank you!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )