While childbirth can be a different experience for every woman, the signs and stages leading to that are the same for everyone. For most women, the signs of labor will be evident and can’t be ignored. Some of the common signs that you are going into labor are:
• A dull back pain that reaches down to the legs and thighs.
• Period like cramps that rise and fall like waves at regular intervals.
• Passing of mucus plug.
• Rupture of your amniotic sac leading to an amniotic fluid leak.
• An urge to pass stool or urine.
• Excessive pressure in the pelvic region.
Let us now see the various stages of labor and the symptoms associated with each phase.
The process of childbirth (with the exception of a c-section) would progress in three phases:
• Early Phase
• Active Phase
• Advanced Phase
This is the longest but the least intense phase of childbirth. This phase occurs over a span of several weeks and often goes unnoticed. During this time, your cervix dilates to around three cms. The cervix will also efface considerably during this period.
• Mild, short, and irregular contractions lasting a few seconds.
• A dull pain on the lower back that remains constant and radiates towards your legs.
• Period-like cramping.
• Pressure on the lower abdomen due to the dropping of the baby.
• Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.
• A mucous-like discharge which might be tinged with blood.
This is the second phase of labor that starts from around 3-4 hours (sometimes more) before childbirth. During this stage of labor, your cervix will dilate to around 7cms. Your contractions will be more frequent, and their intensity will increase. Each contraction lasts for around 40-50 seconds where they intensify midway and then fade away.
• Excessive pain in your lower back and a higher level of pain.
• Heaviness in the leg.
• Increasing fatigue and exhaustion.
• Water breaking and bloody show.
• An excessive urge to urinate or pass stools.
• Heaviness in your lower abdomen
This is the third and the final stage of labor leading to childbirth. During this phase, your cervix will reach its final stage of dilation (10cm). Though the shortest phase of labor (lasting 15 minutes to 1 hour before childbirth), it is accompanied by the maximum amount of pain as in this phase of labor, your baby will have begun pushing its way out of your body. The intensity of your contractions will have skyrocketed, and each contraction would seem more severe than the previous one. Since they are also closely spaced, your body won't have time to relax.
• Excessive pressure in the perineum region.
• Pressure in the rectal region combined with a voluntary urge to push.
• Increased bloody discharge.
• Drop in body temperature. You may alternatively feel hot and sweaty also.
• Drowsiness and extreme fatigue due to the continuous contractions and pushing.
• Cramping sensation or numbness in legs.
Unless you have had an epidural, you will go through all the phases of pain associated with labor and childbirth. The good news is that it is only for a brief period and you will have your bundle of joy at the end of it. When you go into labor, try to remember all the breathing techniques your gynecologist advised you and never shy from asking for help. Try breathing in and out in quick intervals to manage pain. While it is easier said than done, try to relax and focus on pushing your baby out.
Also read: All You Need To Know About Labor Language#pregnancymustknows