By the time you’re ready for labour, you’ve probably come to understand that your body is pretty miraculous. It’s not just that you’re capable of creating an entire human, from complex brain to minute fingernails; the way your organs get ready for their big moment is rather spectacular, too.
You may already have accepted that your once brisk gait has become more of a waddle, thanks to the release of relaxin. This hormone is circulated in even greater quantities during the last few weeks of your pregnancy in an effort to soften your ligaments and give your pelvis a bit more room. Expect to feel a bit achy and perhaps a little off-balance as a result.
While your ligaments are relaxing, so is your cervix. Some women start dilating early, and others enter labour with no dilation at all. Whichever way your body goes, don’t get too excited or disheartened; dilation isn’t an exact predictor of when labour will strike.
You may notice that although you’ve been huffing throughout your pregnancy, it suddenly becomes easier to breathe during the last few weeks. This is because your baby “engages”, dropping lower into your abdomen as it moves into the correct position for birth. Often, it’s easy to see this change – and it’s certainly easy to feel it, as you start to experience increased pressure in the area.
What a show
A “show” is the mucus plug which, up until the final weeks, stays in your cervix to keep the baby inside. As your cervix softens and thins, the plug often falls out, sometimes presenting as (occasionally blood-stained) mucus on your underwear.
If your only knowledge of childbirth comes from watching movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the rupturing of the membranes, or water breaking, is unbelievably dramatic: a whooshing flood that precedes a few minutes of panting and then birth. The reality is far less intense; yes, you’ll probably feel a trickle of moisture, but it may be a full day before contractions set in. However, it’s best to alert your midwife as soon as you can.
One of the most annoying symptoms of labour is false or pre-labour – annoying, because you’ll probably think it’s the real thing and rush off to the hospital. Generally, Braxton-Hicks (the medical term for these contractions) are irregular and may disappear after a few hours. They may come and go, and you may experience them as pressure rather than pain. Try moving around a bit as this can often help to relieve them.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.