Early labour often begins with a dull achey pain in your lower back and low abdomen, it is very similar to the aches you get before your period starts! It’s totally recognisable as you have likely not experienced anything like it for the last 40 weeks! This lower backache can be relieved by walking or using a hot water bottle if you find it uncomfortable. It’s a really good sign that things are getting going!
Early Mild Contractions
This achey lower backache gradually increases to mild early contractions. Remember the difference between contractions and Braxton hicks is that Braxton hicks are painless tightenings of the uterus. Early mild contractions will be irregular and inconsistent; some may be 10 minutes apart and then you may not have another for 30 minutes! They may also be 20 seconds long and then at other times 45 seconds long! It can seem like it takes a while to develop a regular pattern but early labour contractions are super important for helping your cervix to become ready to dilate (open) and to allow your body to build up its own natural pain relief through endorphins (happy hormones) and oxytocin (love hormone). This is a great time to start using a TENS machine if you have one.
A mucous plug sits inside your cervix during pregnancy as an extra defence in protecting your precious baby against infection. As the cervix starts to soften and ripen in early labour the mucous show will often come away. Most women will notice this when they use the bathroom and wipe themselves. It is sticky and stringy; often yellowish, with a tinge of light pink or brown. It is nothing to worry about and can come away over the course of a few days.
Waters breaking can happen at any time but more like during a contraction due to the pressure of the contracting muscles. It can be a gush or a trickle. If you are not sure always pop a clean pair of underwear and a clean pad on – if it is it wet within in 30 minutes it is likely your waters have broken. Make sure you note the colour of the water, the odour (it should never be an offensive smell), the activity of your baby and the time the waters broke and attend hospital immediately for an assessment. Waters should always be clear, light pink, or straw like in colour. If they are green, brown or yellow baby may have passed meconium (poop) inside the uterus and this can be a sign of distress.
****Remember a term pregnancy is 37 weeks so if any of these signs occur in your pregnancy prior to then your baby would be premature and you should attend hospital immediately for assessment.
Your baby should always be moving well right up to the time they are born and there should never be any heavy red bleeding from the vagina in pregnancy or labour, if you experience either of these concerns then please attend your nearest maternity unit for urgent assessment. ****