safe motherhood



Although these are all things that may indicate that labour isn't far off, they aren't actually part of the labour process:

• If you've been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, these may become stronger. If you've not noticed them before, you may start to do so.
• You may be aware of your baby's head pressing down on your cervix.
• It's not unusual to get a burst of energy a day or two before you go into labour.
• You may have a bout of diarrhoea. Some women are even sick.
• It's common to have a small weight loss in the last week or two before the birth.
• As you get close to your due date, you may notice that your baby is moving less vigorously.

There are, though, three other signs which do mean that that labour is imminent, or just beginning:

• The show

This is the plug of mucus which has sealed the cervix shut during pregnancy. As the cervix starts to soften and open a little, the plug comes away. You may notice this as a pinkish discharge. The show can occur at any time from immediately before labour to up to two weeks before labour starts. In many cases, though, it doesn't come away until during labour, when you may not notice it.

• Waters breaking

For about 10% of women, the breaking of the waters is the first indication that labour is imminent. When this happens, some women feel a distinct 'pop' or 'ping' and then a gush of warm clear fluid; others just notice a gentle trickle. For most women, though, the waters don't break until they're well into labour. (See First stage of labour/when to go to hospital)

• Contractions

Contractions are the muscular tightenings of the uterus, which open the cervix so that your baby can be born. Once these contractions have started, you are in labour