Most expectant mothers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their baby, especially during the late stages of the third trimester. Inside the mother’s body, major changes are taking place that will prepare both mother and child for the tasks ahead. While most of these changes produce no outwardly visible symptoms, there are a few characteristic signs that serve as early alerts that labor and delivery are soon to follow.
A few days or weeks before delivery, the position of the baby in the abdomen typically moves downward, reducing pressure on the lungs and allowing the mother to breathe more deeply without discomfort. This process is called “lightening” or “dropping” and is essential to allow the baby to be positioned correctly for his or her trip through the birth canal. Many women experience the need for more frequent urination as the lessened pressure on the upper abdomen is replaced with direct downward pressure on the pelvis and bladder.
Both nausea and diarrhea can occur in late pregnancy due to significant hormonal shifts that occur immediately before or during labor.
Lower back cramps and contractions that occur at random intervals and do not progress are frequently signs that labor will begin soon. However, some women do experience these contractions during the second trimester as well, so they are not a certain sign of impending labor and delivery.
Spotting or Bloody Discharge
During the early stages of labor, the cervix begins to open more fully and the plug of mucus which has protected the uterus may become dislodged and appear as spotting or blood. While this usually happens a few hours before delivery, it can occur anytime during the last month of pregnancy and typically requires a doctor’s visit to ensure that both mother and baby are progressing normally.
For anxious parents, these signs can serve as indications that the wait is nearly over. Expectant mothers and fathers should not hesitate to call the obstetrician or midwife with any questions or concerns about these signs of impending labor and delivery.