So you might find yourself sat there, late on in your pregnancy, feeling some twinges in your belly, and think:
'Am I in labour?'
'How would I know if I'm in labour?'
'How do I know if I'm about to have my baby?'
'Was that a contraction? Or just a general ache? Or Braxton Hicks? Or too much dinner?'
How do you know when it's "really happening"?
When I was having my first baby, I remember thinking that those early contractions couldn't actually be contractions, because they didn't "hurt that much".
Sometimes, I think because of the way that having a contraction is portrayed in TV (i.e. as god awful painful) you can feel unsure if those early sensations are actually contractions, because they don't match your expectations of what a contraction feels like.
Also, on TV it's always portrayed as a quick process. I.e. the woman starts to feels contractions, and that's it, she's rushing to hospital and the baby is born not long after.
But in reality, the body can be getting ready and building up to birth for several days before.
Therefore, you might feel some twinges, and then nothing else, and discount it as nothing. When actually it could be those very initial surges prepping your body to make way for your baby.
So, here's 3 definite signs that labour has begun.
[And until you have one of these and you're sure, then there's absolutely no need to stress. It's not like you're going to miss it because you didn't think you were!]
1. Loosing your mucus plug.
This is basically a blob of mucus that blocks the cervix to prevent bacteria getting in to the baby. As your cervix starts to soften in the run up to birth, this blob falls away. Sometimes in one go, sometimes in small bits. You might notice it coming away, you might not.
2. Waters breaking.
This is usually a slow, trickily process, rather than the gush commonly portrayed on TV! Your waters can break at any point in labour. Very very occasionally they don't break at all and babies are born in their amniotic sac!
Or surges as we call them in hypnobirthing. You may not even realise you are having them at first. They build up gradually until eventually they feel more intense at regular intervals. If you feel they are becoming more frequent, start timing them. Once they hit 3 in 10 minutes, and you struggle to talk through them, you're pretty much in established labour and it's probably time to head to hospital / birth centre / call the midwife for a home birth.
Hope that helps! Lauren x