Whether this is your first child or your fifth, pregnancy always goes hand in hand with anxiety and excitement. Every pregnancy is different, of course. You may hear people say your first baby will take the longest to deliver, but it could be your second (or third or fourth!) child who is the stubborn kid!
That being said, don't worry if you go into labor a week or so early. Many babies arrive naturally a few days to a week early. It's helpful to know the signs of early labor in advance, in case your baby decides to make a surprise appearance. You'll want to call your doctor if you experience any of the following, since it may be time to check in to the hospital:
- Flu-like symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, can occur a few days before labor. This is just your body reacting to hormonal changes.
- An obvious sign that labor is starting is your water breaking. Contrary to many movies and TV shows in which the pregnant woman's water breaks and causes a flood, your water breaking can feel like either a big rush of water or a slow trickle.
- The loss of your mucus plug can occur a few days or a few hours before you begin labor. The mucus plug, also called a bloody show, looks exactly like how it sounds. It's a signal that the cervix is starting to open for labor to begin.
- You've probably been experiencing your fair share of Braxton-Hicks contractions, but pain like menstrual cramps coming from your back and moving toward your front is a better sign that labor is starting.
- American Pregnancy Association. "39th Week of Pregnancy." (June 20, 2011) http://www.americanpregnancy.org/weekbyweek/week39.htm
- Baby Center. "22 Surprising Facts about Birth in the United States." (June 23, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/0_22-surprising-facts-about-birth-in-the-united-states_1372273.bc
- Baby Center. "Packing list for the hospital or birth center." (June 22, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/packing-for-the-hospital-or-birth-center
- Parenting. "3rd Trimester: Week 39." (June 20, 2011) http://www.parenting.com/timeline/3rd-trimester-week-39
- WebMD. "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 35-40." (June 20, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-35-40?page=2
- What to Expect. "Week 39 of Pregnancy." (June 20, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-39.aspx