How do I know when I am going to go into labor?
Oh how I wish I could answer this question for all of you. If I had a crystal ball and could I would be rich! This is such a common question in my practice. Women in the United States have been lulled into a false sense of planning by the medical community making them believe they can detect when they go into labor.
Here are a few things that will not detect that you will go into labor soon:
1. You are dilating. But but but. Nope. Doesn't matter. I have seen women walk around at 7 cm for a couple weeks then go on to have a normal length labor. I have seen women go from 1 cm to baby in one hour. It is not a good assessment of when you will have your baby.
2. It is your due date. See #1 below.
3. Your baby has dropped. This can happen in labor.
4. Your previous baby was born at 39 weeks (or 40, or 37). Your previous gestation amounts can play into the equation but based on 11 years of birth work I would never put money on it.
For those of you (like me) who appreciate a good check list here are a few warning signs (party signs?) that labor may be on it's way in the next week or less:
1. You are over your estimated due date. I tell every first time parent to add 8 days to their EDD based on their last period and count on baby coming no sooner that that. Make sure you share your new EDD with everyone. But what if the baby comes early you ask? You have your baby a few weeks early and no one raises an eyebrow, but go over your due date and the texts and phone calls won't stop until the baby is out. Even mom's who have had a baby before often hit their due date.
2. You have had a seriously good cry. This usually occurs as a prenatal appointment after you come in puffy and glaring at your care provider that you are still pregnant. The cry often occurs from the build up of hormones in your body preparing you for labor.
3. It has been one week since you have had a night of contractions where you were "Sure this is it." and you almost called(or did call) your midwife.
4. You have loose bowels. You have spent most of your pregnancy more blocked up than usual thanks to iron supplements and slowed down digestion which helps with greater absorption of nutrients that is typical in pregnancy. Suddenly things change the other direction. Emptying becomes the word of the week.
5. You have lost your mucous plug although these regrow all the time and it is not uncommon to loose them a couple of times before baby comes.
6. You get up in the middle of the night to fold baby clothes. Nesting anyone?
7. Everyone in the family has gotten a really nasty cold, flu, or stomach virus and it now starting to feel better. It sounds crazy but this almost always happens. Every one gets sick about a week before baby comes. Mom is super stressed about being sick or having sick kids while in labor. Everyone gets better and then the baby is born.
8. Your toddler has decided s/he is ready to toilet train. Completely serious. You wanted to do it all your first trimester but didn't have the stomach for it. You tried to do it your second trimester but the child wasn't ready. You had given up hope the third trimester and were sure that they would be in diapers in college. Week before the baby comes and wamo they want to use the potty and you spend a week washing pee soaked underwear.
9. Your mother-in-law who came into town to be here for the birth just caught their flight back home. Your body has a way of waiting to go into labor until it can be a private event. This can also be the sister, best friend, mother etc. I really do not have a vendetta against mother-in-laws.
10. Baby is moving less. It is very important to pay attention to baby's movements in utero as this is a positive warning sign that baby is doing well. Often right before labor there is a moment of calmness from your little one as s/he prepares for birth. They have just plain run out of room and their head is wedging deeper into your pelvis. This comment usually comes up during a prenatal appointment, but more than a handful of times I have gone to a clients home to check on things because mom was concerned that the baby wasn't moving and there was something wrong only to arrive assure her everything is fine and she is in early labor.
Regardless of everything above your baby will come when it is the right time for him or her. There is a point when almost every woman meets a point of surrender. She will be pregnant forever and she is ok with that. For now she will enjoy the joy of the baby growing with in her. Then the baby will come. The beautiful thing about birthing at home is that we get to follow the Divine plan and allow our bodies to do what they were meant to do, birth a baby perfectly.