As you move into the final days of your pregnancy, you're going to start feeling a shift in your body. You might also be wondering (worrying) “How will I know if I am really in labor? What if I have the baby in my car?! OMG!”
It may come as a relief to learn that you are definitely NOT in labor, if you are wondering “Am I really in labor?”
As we move through this series, you’ll learn the difference between early and active labor. Active labor is the kind of labor that emphatically gets the baby out. You likely won’t miss it.
For now though, let’s focus on the signs that labor is approaching so that you have something to keep you encouraged. The big day is still probably a few days or weeks away, so hang in there and continue your oxytocin producing activities.
Why is everyone and their mother telling you to have sex right about now?
Do you know why sex kick starts labor? Let’s break down why.
First, we are interested in oxytocin here, which is released with orgasm (you can go back and read about it here). The good news is that there are many ways to reach an orgasm, you may or may not need a partner to get its benefits, so get to it!
Second, you need a distraction. And be honest, how many pedicures can you get while you wait for labor to start?
And finally, the other not-so-advertised reason that sex kick starts labor is semen. Yes--semen! Basically, it contains a hormone called prostaglandin. For the dudes reading this, thank you! I know you want to help your special gal. But if she prefers that you keep your pants on, you can also hit up your local pharmacy for Borage Oil or Evening Primrose Oil capsules, both contain prostaglandin and can be used as a suppository to help move things along. Just be sure to check with your care provider on this one.
Time to head out
Prostaglandins work to efface, or help soften, the cervix. As the base of the uterus, you can think of it as the baby’s exit. Turns out, the cervix needs to soften and be pulled back up into the uterus to open the door for the baby. The softer the cervix the more productive each uterine contraction will be, creating a positive hormonal loop of oxytocin and prostaglandin. You can watch this video here to better understand it.
The cervix is made up of soft tissue, just like your sinuses, intestines, and other various muscles. So when prostaglandin pumps through your body, you may feel flu-like, achy, generally tired and crappy. You might have a runny nose, loose stool, and cramps. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
It's all super normal, it means that your body is preparing to go into labor. A lot of women are like, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm getting the flu a week before my due date." It's actually a really good sign.
You might also find that there's more mucous being discharged from your vagina along with the thrilling bloody show, which is a sign of the cervix effacing and beginning to dilate. I know, it sounds very very exciting. You might even be compelled to send your doctor and doula a photo of your newly discharged mucous plug. Hint: a good description can also get the message across. : )
One thing to remember is that sometimes these things happen all at once, and for some women not at all Don’t fret if you don’t see these signs. It does not mean you’ll be pregnant forever. You will go into labor at some point. You should always check in with your care provider if you are feeling concerned. It’s his or her job to help explain it to you. Remember, normal progress is different for every body, so try not to compare your situation to anyone else’s.
Generally, this process happens over many days and weeks. Your baby and your body are on their own timeline. There's nothing you need to do, your body is already moving towards the direction of labor. We are talking about horticultural time here, we cannot force labor to happen.
Think about what your body is telling you. How would you treat your body if you were in fact, getting the flu? Perhaps, your body is sending you signals to slow down. Slowing down is a big part of parenting a newborn. The end of your pregnancy is an excellent time to start this process.. Take this time to rest, nourish, and tap into what you need--your intuition is an excellent guide here. This practice will come in handy later on when labor starts, and when you’re caring for a newborn.
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How can you manage this waiting phase? What kinds of foods do you like to eat when you’re not feeling so great? What kind of help might you need so that you can tune into your body’s messages?
Love your (virtual) doula,
P.S. This might be your last weekend before giving birth, so why not go out for a nice dinner or see a movie or maybe stay in bed all day and read! Netflix and chill?