As you reach the end of your third trimester, nobody can blame you for eagerly sniffing out those early signs of labor.
You’re tired, you’re eager to meet your baby, and, quite frankly, everyone around you is probably asking if there is any sign of labor.
You might just benefit from reading our tips on how to stay sane in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Those last weeks of the third trimester are full of exciting changes: many women report a nesting instinct, increased braxton hicks contractions, loss of the mucus plug and a phenomenon called lightening; where the baby drops lower in to the pelvis.
Those symptoms are certainly more exciting than other mundane signs such of approaching labor such as loose stools, pesky irregular contractions that turn out to be just a false alarm and swollen ankles.
But what about extreme fatigue?
Many mothers wonder whether sudden extreme tiredness- which is felt in stark contrast to that sudden burst of energy associated with nesting instinct- is a sign of impending labor.
So: extreme fatigue. Just another of the many boring third trimester pregnancy symptoms, or a reliable sign that active labor is round the corner? Read on to find out!
Even if Extreme Fatigue is an Early Labor Symptom Why does it Matter?
If this is the case, it’s important that pregnant women pay close attention to any sudden exhaustion before labor-first off.
Mom can ensure her hospital bag is ready in case she needs to head to labor and delivery in a few hours, but, more importantly, so that she listens to this labor sign and rests.
Active labor is exhausting, so if you are at or around your due date and are having signs of labor, it’s time to rest up!
Most women will report some fatigue by the time they hit their third trimester, this is of course perfectly normal considering what your body is doing!
However, if you suddenly experience extreme fatigue, it may be a sign that you are in the early stages of labor.
Particularly if you are planning for a vaginal delivery, your body needs you to rest right now, so that as you approach the second stage of the labor process (pushing) you have sufficient energy to do so.
If you are already exhausted as labor begins, you are more likely to require medical intervention.
Each woman’s experience of childbirth is of course uniquely important to her, but if you’d prefer a natural, intervention free delivery, rest is important when you are feeling tired in the final weeks before baby arrives.
What are Some of the Early Signs of Labor?
If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, it’s likely that you’re feeling every ache and pain and hoping that it’s an early labor sign!
This can be fun….it can also be exhausting and frustrating when true labor doesn’t follow.
Let’s look at some of the common signs labor is approaching or signs labor has already begun! You can also read more about this in our blog post: How to Know Early Signs of Labor.
This one can appear dramatic and as one of the first labor signs on TV shows, but the reality is often a whole lot different!
In the womb, your baby is protected by the amniotic sack, filled with amniotic fluid. This is known as the bag of waters, and protects your baby throughout the pregnancy.
At some point the amniotic sac will burst, leading to the leaking of the amniotic fluid. This can be in a slow gradual trickle, or they can go all at once.
Unlike in the movies, for many women, their water breaks when they are well in to active labor, or even when they are giving birth!
If your healthcare provider decides to induce labor, they will often do this by breaking your waters. The water breaking can stimulate labor contractions or accelerate active labor if progress is slow.
If you are at term and your waters have broken, healthcare providers often want to see you deliver within a few days to reduce infection risk- but normally active labor naturally starts before that point anyway.
So this one is definately a good sign that true labor is in progress or round the corner.
This one is a little less clear. Some women don’t report nesting at all, but other women report a distinct burst of energy and desire to clean and organise just 24-48 hours before giving birth.
The idea is that Moms have a subconscious sense of labor approaching imminently and so clean and organise in preparation for the arrival of the baby.
Our thoughts on this? The pregnant woman’s body goes through enough in labor- the best thing you could do in the pre labor stage would be to rest.
Cervical dilation refers to the slow opening of the cervix in preparation of the delivery of the baby.
Most women will be at 0-1 cm before labor (if this is your second baby, your cervix won’t have fully closed since your last delivery) and this will stretch to 2-3cm in the early stage of labor.
As your due date approaches, you may find that your cervix very slowly dilates over a number of weeks.
While progress in cervical dilation is certainly a good sign, it doesn’t mean that labor contractions will follow within hours- this process really can take weeks.
And how do you know if you’re dilating? Well, your doctor or midwife will be able to tell during a vaginal exam.
Other signs would include pinkish vaginal discharge and mild contractions that can feel like menstrual cramps.
They won’t be as intense as real labor contractions, but they are doing an important job!
Loss of Mucus Plug or Bloody Show
The mucus plug is as it sounds; a thick glob of mucus that protects the cervix from infection.
It can be snot like, appearing yellowish, clear, pink or stained with blood. A bloody mucus plug is known as a Bloody show, and is a good sign that your cervix has begun to dilate and active labor will commence soon.
If you experience other symptoms alongside the loss of your mucus plug, such as contractions, the signs are good!
Blood might appear alarming, but a bloody show is just blood tinged mucus.
It should include only a small amount of blood- and this is just from tiny blood vessels in the cervix bursting as the cervix dilates. Any blood more than spotting should be checked out by your doctor immediately.
Low Back Ache
A general low back ache is to be expected towards the end if your pregnancy, due to the increased weight you are carrying around and the loosened ligaments caused by relaxin.
However, pre labor back ache is distinct, caused by the baby heading towards the birth canal.
You can expect to feel increased pressure in the pelvic region, and an ache that won’t improve when you move around. This is a good sign that real contractions might be round the corner!
As your baby descends into the birth canal, you will feel a general heaviness in the pelvic area.
This might be similar to the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement, however as labor starts and real contractions kick in, you will be able to distinctly feel the peak and easing of contractions.
During this stage you might also experience loss of the mucus plug or your waters breaking- the increased pressure can burst the bag of waters.
For every woman who reports a burst of energy as a sign of labor, it seems another woman reports sudden exhaustion before labor. It seems that signs of labor truly do vary from woman to woman.
Many women report headaches, extreme exhaustion and stomach upset in the days before delivery. In the final weeks, it’s not uncommon for moms to lose apetite and stop gaining weight.
What Should I do When Labor Begins?
Often moms worry in the last weeks about how they will know when labor has truly commenced.
However, you’ll find that the labor signs quickly increase and you won’t be long finding out if what you are having are true labor contractions!
Extreme tiredness can be a real barrier in labor, so it’s important that you put to the side any sudden burst of energy to clean, and instead try to rest and relax at the earlist sign of labor.
Ensure that your hospital bag is ready and that you let your birthing partner know. As labor starts, stay calm. Try to listen to calming music or try some gentle exercise.
If you’re having contractions, time these (ideally get your partner to do so) so you can rule out braxton hicks contractions.
As a general rule, braxton hicks contractions will be irregular and will improve if you move/change position.
Check in with your healthcare provider- they may want to check in to ensure your blood pressure and temperature are appropriate as labor start.
Sudden Exhaustion Before Labor: what does it really mean?
Pre-Labor Exhaustion: Listen To Your Body!
Sudden exhaustion is a common symptom experienced by women in the final weeks of pregnancy, but, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily mean that delivery is imminent!
If accompanied by other signs however, like loss of the mucus plug or pelvic pressure, it’s possible something else is going on.
That said, if you’re feeling sudden exhaustion, it’s your body’s way of telling you it needs rest.
Perhaps you have been doing too much, or perhaps instinctively your body is preparing for imminent labor- either way, we recommend that you take note and rest up!
In the meantime, feel free to keep preparing, albeit, perhaps from bed! How about reading up on our tips as to how to have a successful natural birth?