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When I was at the early stage of the pregnancy with my first child, I often wondered how would I know that "it is now", that labour is close. What are the most common signs of labour and what should you pay attention to? I asked my female acquaintances who had already given birth but it turned out that each of them noticed a different thing, that they remember one thing, while completely overlooked the other. My head was swimming and I was increasingly worried I would not notice the signs although there were so many of them. During my next visit to the doctor I decided to dispel the doubts and bring some order to the information. I hope my notes will help you to feel safe in this new situation posed by the first pregnancy and childbirth.

Calendar of signs

About one month before childbirth

- you may experience mood swings! You will easily jump from sadness, low spirits, sorrow to joy and euphoria. The feelings change without any particular reason. However, do not worry in advance, as each of us is different and prepares for the childbirth in a different way. I underwent a real mood swing, while one of my friends, a happy mother of four children, did not experience that at all.

-if you have scales at home and weigh yourself regularly, in the last month of the pregnancy you may notice you do not put on weight, or even lose weight. Your weight may drop by even 1.5 kg. Rarely a woman puts on weight at that time, but it is possible. Even in such case, the increase in weight is slight.

In some women 3-4 weeks before, and in others only a few hours before labour

- you feel that pressure on the bladder is more frequent than usual and you need to urinate more often.

Several days before birth

- you may feel contractions, easily mistaken for pains felt just before labour. Such contractions are called "false" or "practice" contractions. Some women feel them very strongly, others only as mild pain, and some not at all. If you feel them, you will notice they are short and not very intense, but sometimes they may be stronger. Sometimes they change into labour contractions. The closer it is to labour, the more often you will experience them.

A few days before labour

- the cervix shortens and that may, although not necessarily, result in expelling a mucous plug. What is that? The mucous plug blocks the cervix during pregnancy and protects your baby against infections. When it is expelled, you may notice mucus (slippery, elastic discharge) on your underwear, jelly-like in appearance and slightly pink (or transparent). In some women the amount of mucus may be copious, and in other small or even unnoticeable.

A few days before labour

- you may feel pain in your back, tights or groin. That pain may be described as "dull" and is similar to the onset of a period. With the approaching labour, you may additionally feel a pressure on the pelvis and rectum, continuous pain is increasingly stronger in the lower back as well as in the groin and thighs area. You should know, however, that this pain may occur, but not necessarily. It depends on a person.

A day before the labour or on the day itself

- food cravings or, contrary, no appetite at all are caused by contractions of your intestines. Your body is purifying itself, thus you may need to go to a toilet more frequently. At that time stool is more loose.

Labour is close on

- you do not feel the baby's movements as strongly as before? Just before birth the baby's head is already in the birth canal, the space for movements is increasingly limited and therefore they are weaker than before. In case of any doubts, however, go to a hospital.

- labour contractions are much stronger than practice ones. They occur regularly at increasingly shorter intervals.

Labour onset

- waters do not have to break as rapidly as it was in that romantic comedy you watched recently. They may trickle (whitish or transparent, sometimes with a tinge of green). That sign is the most important! You must  always go to a hospital when the waters break, without waiting for contractions to begin.

I hope that now you will be more aware when reading the signs sent by your body. Remember, however, that those guidelines only supplement the knowledge you can get during each visit to your doctor. Always adhere to recommendations of your doctor or midwife. Pay particular attention to movements of your baby and consult them with your medical care providers, as they are a very important indication of a good condition of your baby. Experience this period with awareness, lack of knowledge may cause anxiety and stress, which should be avoided at this time.

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