When Will Labor Start?
When you are waiting for your little bundle of joy, it seems forever before labor starts. It is normal to have contractions that start and stop, but that can make it confusing to know the difference between a false start and the real thing. Friends and family start making comments about how long you have been pregnant. How can you tell when labor will begin?
There are a number of factors that go into when labor will actually begin. They are mostly hormonal changes that are taking place in your body, and there are physical signs these changes are happening. For example, as the ratio of progesterone and estrogen changes, your uterus becomes more sensitive to oxytocin (the hormone that causes contractions) so you feel more Braxton-Hicks or pre-labor contractions.
Another indicator that your body is getting ready to give birth is some mild swelling that seems to happen within the last two weeks of pregnancy. As your body increases the blood supply to prepare for labor, your body swells to make room for the extra fluids.
It is normal to lose the mucus plug (a blob of mucus that has been keeping your cervix closed during pregnancy) as your body prepares for labor. As your body contracts the uterus through the normal pre-labor contractions, the cervix may begin to dilate a centimeter or two. The opening cervix lets go of the mucus plug and you may see it in the toilet or on your toilet paper.
As good of indicators as these hormonal and physical changes are, the are not distinct enough to give you a specific time line for the beginning of labor. Even bloody show, which is generally not seen until early labor, can happen up to two weeks before labor begins.
The unfortunate truth is that all methods to predict the start of labor are ineffective. You cannot tell that you will go into labor by your due date, when your baby dropped, when you lost your mucus plug, dilation during pregnancy or the frequency of Braxton-Hicks (pre-labor) contractions.
What these indicators can tell you is that your body is moving through the process of getting ready to go into labor. They should be a warning to you to keep yourself well fed, well hydrated and well rested because labor can be starting anytime. They should also be reminders to you that labor has not begun yet, and you should continue to live your life as normally as possible.