The Inpatient Woman’s Summary of Google-able Information on Early Labor Signs

I’ve had a lot of time to google lately while I wait INCREDIBLY PATIENTLY for Lucy to make her entrance. I’ve created a comprehensive summary of what I’ve learned about predicting when one will go into labor.

1. If you’re between 38-42 weeks pregnant, you will probably go into labor soon.

2. Your water may break before active labor, but it probably won’t.

3. You may or may not noticeably discharge something attractively called a “mucous plug” or a “bloody show” into your giant lady underpants. This may mean that labor is coming in the next 24 hours, but it could also mean that it’s weeks away. Also, you may not have this.

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4. An internal exam can reveal how far along you’re dilated and effaced, but whatever it is, it doesn’t mean anything and is not a predictor of when you’ll go into labor.

5. About 50% of women give birth before their due date. The other 50% give birth after.

6. If you have diarrhea, nausea, an achy pelvis, insomnia, and/or painful Braxton Hicks contractions while walking around Costco, congratulations, you are pregnant. At some point, you will likely give birth.

7. Things that may help speed up the process include eating spicy foods and pineapple, walking, awkwardly bouncing on a yoga ball while your dog stares at you, taking evening primrose oil pills, drinking raspberry leaf tea (which is disgusting), having huge lady sex, and asking someone to squeeze your nipples. Please note, none of these things have actually been proven effective. You will likely do all of them regardless.

8. Your baby may or may not “drop” either days, weeks, or hours before you go into labor. This does not help to predict the timeline, but you will feel very relieved that you can breathe again. You can use all that air to help lug yourself to the bathroom, because you’ll have to pee every 5 minutes.

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9. If you stop gaining weight (or even start losing weight!) then you may go into labor soon. This is crazy and will not happen, and can I please have more waffles?

10. If you think something is happening and that you might be starting to go into labor, remember that it’s probably a false alarm. If, however, you experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, nausea or vision changes, then you might have preeclampsia and should call your care provider immediately. Also, these symptoms could be totally normal.

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To summarize, the physical difficulties of the late-third trimester (while certainly not unnoticeable) are nothing new. You’re playing host to a giant alien, who is squeezing your organs in every direction and making it difficult to sleep, think, and waddle. At this point, feeling physically “uncomfortable” is not a revelation. What changed for me is the mental shift: I am now sitting around waiting for this baby to decide she’s ready to be born. Every menstrual-like cramp, pelvic ache, or possible contraction becomes permeated with the potential to be the start of something bigger than it is (a little cramp, ache, or practice contraction). Everything feels like an exciting development, until I realize that it’s not; that there’s just more waiting to do. It’s a constant cycle of excitement and disappointment.

People keep telling me to enjoy this time, and sleep while I still can (I can’t), and to rest and relax. Waiting to go into labor (the terrifying and unknowable thing), waiting to meet your first kid, waiting for your life-as-you-know-it to change forever, these are not the kinds of things that set me up for a relaxing week at home.

I think instead I’ll keep googling. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a buried prophetic Geocities deep in the trenches of an anonymous What to Expect forum. Please pass the waffles.

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