What Happens in Pre-Labor?

What Happens in Pre-Labor? thumbnail
Pre-labor prepares the woman's body for the rigors of delivery.

There are many stages to labor, and it can be confusing knowing which stage you are experiencing. Pre-labor is a set of physiological changes that indicate the body is preparing for the birth of your child. These changes help position the baby and strengthen the muscles used for contraction and pushing. Anyone can mistake this part of the process for true labor, but it is only a warm up.

  1. Lightening

    • During the pre-labor stage, the baby makes his way down into the pelvic cavity. This is known by different names, but it means the baby is dropping so he is closer to the birth canal. It is called "lightening" because the weight feels lighter to the mother. It is also called "engagement" because the baby is entering the pelvic bone. This can happen anywhere from two to four weeks before the baby is born and is more noticeable in first-time mothers.

    Urination and Diarrhea

    • Expect to urinate more frequently now the baby has dropped; this occurs because the baby's head, compresses the bladder, leaving little room for urine to accumulate. As a result, you will have to urinate more often. Loose stools are another sign of pre-labor; this is because of hormonal changes as your body prepares for delivery. It is the body's way of making room for the baby in the pelvic cavity.

    Bloody Show and Vaginal Discharge

    • It is normal to see increased vaginal discharge that is whitish or pink-tinged. However, this is different from the bloody show. The bloody show is when the mucous plug protecting the cervix during pregnancy passes. It is a mucous discharge, either tinged with blood or brownish. If it is heavy like a menstrual flow, report it to to your doctor or midwife immediately. Labor could be three days to one week away at this point.

    Braxton-Hicks Contractions

    • Many mothers experience Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout pregnancy, but you will find these become stronger in pre-labor. You can have increased pain in the back, rectum and groin as well. The difference between these contractions and the actual labor is they follow no pattern, they are only felt in the front, are mildly uncomfortable and make your belly feel like a hardball. Labor contractions are progressive and follow a pattern. They differ greatly from pre-labor contractions.

    Water Breaking

    • Some women experience their water breaking as an indication of pre-labor, but some women will not experience this until well into labor. According to AskDrSears.com, 1 in 10 women will experience this in pre-labor. It doesn't happen until labor has progressed, therefore, it is not a good indicator of early or pre-labor. If it is experienced, though, there will be a rush of fluid that cannot be controlled and birth will be imminent.

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