The onset of labor, also known as the beginning of labor or the start of contractions, is the process by which the uterus contracts and the cervix dilates to prepare for the delivery of a baby. This is a natural process that usually begins around the 38th week of pregnancy. However, it can occur earlier or later than this, and the exact timing can vary from woman to woman.
The precise cause of labor is not fully understood, but it is thought to be triggered by a combination of factors, including changes in hormone levels, pressure on the cervix, and the baby’s position in the uterus. It is also believed that the baby may release a hormone that signals to the mother’s body that it is ready to be born.
The onset of labor can be characterized by a number of different signs and symptoms, including –
- Regular contractions – These are painful sensations that occur at regular intervals and cause the uterus to contract. Contractions may begin mild and gradually become more intense and closer together.
- Cervical dilation – The cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina, will start to dilate or open up in preparation for the baby to pass through.
- Effacement – The cervix will also start to thin out or efface, which means it will become softer, thinner, and shorter.
- Rupture of the membranes – This occurs when the amniotic sac, which contains the baby and amniotic fluid, breaks open, and the fluid leaks out.
- Bloody show – A bloody show occurs because the cervix starts to soften and thin (efface) and widen (dilate) in preparation for labor. When your cervix dilates, it’s making room for your baby to pass through.
Labour is divided into 3 stages.
- First stage – The first stage of labour is the slow opening of your cervix.
- Second stage/Birth of baby – The second stage is the birth of your baby. It is in the second stage when the mother will push the baby through the birth canal and out of the vagina. This stage can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the position and size of the baby. For first-time mothers, labour takes around 12 to 14 hours. Women who have undergone childbirth before can expect about 7 hours of labour.
- Third stage – The third stage is separation and birth of the placenta.
The onset of labor is a complex and natural process that involves a combination of hormonal and physical changes. It is characterized by regular contractions, cervical dilation, effacement, rupture of the membranes, and bloody show. The exact cause of labor is not fully understood.