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When Will Labor Start?

How much longer?

This question has been occupying my mind of late.

My first two babies were born just past 39 weeks and at 38.5 weeks.  I’m 38 weeks now.  It’s unlikely that I’ll go past my due date (I went into labor on my own with both, not induced), so everyday I wonder…is this it?  Part of me wants to just do this thing and meet my baby, already!  I’d love to know “who” I’m getting (since I don’t know if I’m having a boy or a girl).  But part of me wants to keep the baby in as long as possible, because I want the baby to be healthy and really ready to come, and plus I’m not ready yet!  Exactly.

Still, women nearing their due dates just can’t help but wonder…”when will labor start?!”

It’s a good question to ask.  I mean, it’s kind of a huge deal.  It’s not just about labor, but about getting a new baby.  Your life will change forever, whether it’s your first or your fifth.  It’s this awesome, amazing thing…and unpredictable too.

This is currently driving all the people around me insane.  My parents and husband are asking for constant updates on how I’m feeling and if that means anything.  i.e. “So is the baby planning to come in the next few hours?  Days?”  I keep them in the loop — noting any contractions, cramping, backaches, and so on, but the truth is — it’s all normal at this point.  It’s all leading up to labor.  But labor could still start five minutes from now, or five weeks from now (I sure hope I don’t carry to 43 weeks…).

That’s the bottom line: “I don’t know.”

There are some things to look for, though, that usually mean labor is coming “soon.”  Which could be hours or a couple weeks, but…hey, when you’re anxious it’s good to have something to think about, right?

  • Losing your mucus plug (can happen a few weeks before labor starts…or not until you’re in active labor)
  • Increased Braxton-Hicks (last few weeks before labor)
  • Baby “dropping” (a few weeks before labor, or, with subsequent babies, maybe not until you’re in labor or about to start)
  • “Real” contractions that are random (they’re low in front and wrap to your back…it’s “starting” but it could be hours to days yet)
  • Bloody show (accompanies by losing your mucus plug, but could also be caused by an exam or sex — can mean hours to days)
  • Loose bowels (not super uncommon anyway if baby’s kind of sitting on your intestines, but it can mean just hours before labor)
  • Nesting (hours to weeks…depends on the person!)
  • Nausea (may or may not experience this at all…but it could be hours to days)
  • A “feeling” that labor is coming (hours to days…mom’s intuition is usually right!)

There are other signs, but those are some.  It’s fun to torture yourself and keep track of all these signs when you’re sure labor is right around the corner.  On that last one, a “feeling,” the night before my first was born I was pacing around my room and suddenly stopped and looked in the mirror.  This was around 11 PM.  I suddenly, strongly felt, “I won’t be pregnant much longer.”  I was 39 weeks, and I went into labor early the next morning.

 Please note none of these mean you are in labor, just that you are “close.”  Being in labor means consistent contractions, water breaking, and so on.  Pretty much everyone knows when “this is it” once it happens.  (I say ‘pretty much’ because occasionally there is a really random, unusual labor that happens quickly, with little pain, and baby surprises everyone!  I’ve had friends who’ve had babies in 30 minutes to 3 hours and everyone missed it.  One of my midwives said one of her labors was just 20 minutes!)

Anyway.  Keep track of all your signs and maybe you’ll have a clue when things will happen…or maybe not, since none of these signs are guarantees.  It can’t hurt in the mean time to keep talking to your baby, drinking red raspberry leaf tea (some say it’s safe during the entire pregnancy, and some say just at the end…but if you’re past 37 weeks you’re safe), taking short walks, and so on.

Do you eagerly anticipate labor and wonder if “today’s the day” a lot?  What early signs did you have?

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