The End of Your Pregnancy: Labor a Welcome Change

Pregnancy is a wonderful and miraculous time filled with changes and expectations. Pictures are now available of the changes in the fetus week by week which can build excitement as the expectant mother's abdomen enlarges and she wonders about the changes taking place inside the darkness of her womb.

Excitement can contribute to many "false alarm" trips to hospital, especially for the first time mother. Even for the veteran, the discomfort and exhaustion of the late stages of pregnancy may result in a few hopeful extra trips to be evaluated by the nurse or physician. This may warrant a review of the signs of labor for the pregnant woman.

What to Look for

The proverbial bag is packed and waiting by the door. How will you know when to call your husband home from work and make that long drive to the hospital?

"Bloody show" is the presence of red, pink or brown tinged mucous either in your underwear or present on toilet tissue. This is an early sign that your pregnancy is ending and labor is around the corner. The mucus plug is a thick layer of mucus that forms as a barrier to the opening of your uterus. It helps keep out bacteria and may be shed over several weeks or all at once. This a necessary step in pregnancy before labor can begin.

The presence of loose stools can be a welcome experience to the pregnant mother. This is usually an indicator that your labor will begin in a day or less. The emptying of the bowel is necessary to prepare your body for labor. Your pregnancy is nearly at a end at this stage so rest up for the big event.

Contractions: The Actual Bugle Call of Labor

As your pregnant body prepares for labor, a warm up is required. Contractions are a tightening of the uterus that become stronger in intensity and closer in intervals. The ultimate goal is for your uterus to contract and propel the baby down the birth canal and into the world. No one can predict the length of your labor as every pregnancy is different.

True contractions should not be confused with Braxton-Hicks contractions. They are mild contractions which can occur in the late stages of pregnancy but are not actual labor contractions. They are milder and erratically spaced and may come and go throughout the end stages of pregnancy. You should also be aware of changes in your body, especially back pain, as the positioning of the baby may create back pain during contractions. If your back pain occurs at regular intervals and with increased intensity, you most likely are experiencing contractions. Call your physician or nurse practitioner if you are unsure.