Symptoms approaching childbirth

Here we are: the due date is getting closer and closer. But, calendar aside, how do you understand, how do you “feel” that the key moment is coming? Luckily, the body generally tends to give out several signals in the final days of pregnancy and as labor approaches. Some are unambiguous, others more nuanced or misunderstood, and not all mothers-to-be feel them in full. So let’s begin to see which, not necessarily in order of appearance (there is no real “ladder”) are the symptoms that signal the approach to labor.

The belly “goes down”, the breath improves

Here is a decidedly clear symptom: for a certain moment, the belly seems to have gone “more down”. And that’s right: the fetus has positioned itself lower, it is preparing to come out, the belly could also take on a more “pear” shape and the change is not only aesthetic.

In fact it is possible that, almost from one moment to the next, the future mother’s breathing changes and becomes freer, more natural again. That sense of weight that in recent times had made breathing difficult and hampered disappears.

And it’s not just breathing that becomes easier again: digestion also seems easier.

Skip the cervical cap

Another significant moment, which marks the decided approach of the end of pregnancy, is the detachment, or rather the slipping away, of the so-called “cervical plug”.

It is a set of dense and viscous material placed at the level of the cervix to protect the uterus from possible infections, preventing the entry of harmful microorganisms from the outside, and which now, with the dilatation of the cervix in preparation for childbirth, is expelled.

The whitish, gelatinous, almost odorless substance of which this sort of natural plug was formed indicates the approaching moment of labor, but not necessarily its imminence. Let’s just say it’s a step in the right direction.

Losses, nausea, hunger and sweating

Another indicator of the approaching birth is constituted by the losses, often in the morning, which cannot be confused with the breaking of the waters because they are minimal, but still sufficient to wet the briefs.

Then there are more varied symptoms, which everyone can experience or not, such as the presence of nausea, or vice versa excessive hunger, or even the need to evacuate and the arrival of diarrhea discharges.

For some women there is also increased sweating.

Contractions, true and “false”

In the last weeks of pregnancy, contractions begin to be felt on a much smaller scale than those that characterize childbirth, but which mark its approach. They are called Braxton-Hicks contractions (and sometimes renamed “false contractions” despite being contractive movements in all respects), have easily bearable intensity and pain and are intermittent.

However, as the date approaches, the contractions begin to become more regular and closer together. At this point it is advisable to take note of both the regularity and the distance between one and the other, and begin to be ready: most likely you are entering the prodromal phase, or pre-partum.

The breaking of the waters

Here is the real climax, the one in which the amniotic sac ruptures and spills all the liquid out.

It is difficult for this symptom to escape when the loss of liquid (warm, colorless and generally not accompanied by pain) is sudden and significant, but it can also happen that the quantity is moderate and that it is confused with losses of another type. Consequently, given that the breaking of the waters, more technically spontaneous amniorexis, signals the imminence of labor, in case of even doubt it is advisable to contact the doctor immediately.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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