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Labor S igns – Prelude to Labor

Lightening

As you get closer to your due date, someone may come up to you and say, “Your baby has dropped!” In wonder and amazement you think to yourself, “How in the world do they know that?” It may be evident to some people who have been close to you throughout your pregnancy. Earlier in your pregnancy, your fundus was positioned high in your abdomen, just underneath your breasts. As your baby's birth nears and he grows, the fundus will drop 2 to 3 inches away from your ribs. This process is called lightening. It can occur weeks before the onset of labor or anytime right up to when labor begins. Many women describe it as increased pressure in the pelvic area. This pressure results from the baby’s head settling into the bony pelvis. It is now easier to breathe but you may feel more pressure on your bladder and may be making more trips to the bathroom as you did early in your pregnancy.

Contractions

Throughout most of your pregnancy, the uterine muscles commonly contract from time to time. These contractions are often painless, irregular in frequency and mild in intensity. Many women describe them as a “balling up” sensation. The closer you get to your due date, the more likely you are to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions can mimic true labor contractions and may make you feel as if your labor has begun.

Effacement

After prostaglandins soften and ripen your cervix, they further prepare for birth by thinning out the cervix or effacing it. The cervix is normally 1½ to 2 inches long and will become paper thin as it stretches and pulls over the baby’s head. Your nurse or your healthcare provider are able to tell you if there are any changes to your cervix by doing a pelvic exam. The terms that they will use to describe the changes in the cervix are the following:

Description Effacement of Cervix No changes to cervix 0% effaced Cervix is half of the normal thickness 50% effaced Cervix is completely thinned out 100% effaced

0% Effaced 50% Effaced 100% Effaced

Chapter 4 – Understanding Labor and Birth 33

Many women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions after the frst 3 to 4 months of pregnancy.

Page 35 - Stormont-Vail GOM baby friendly ebook

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