How to recognise the onset of labour

I thought water breaking is the obvious first sign. Contractions the next obvious. Now I have learnt few more, that there is this thing called “show” and there is this another thing called instinct too!!

Water breaking 
Ignorant me used to think that water should break first. Slowly I learnt that either water breaking or contraction as the sign of onset of labour.

Water breaking though an obvious sign, is not the best of the signs as told in my antenatal class. It means that, if water breaks, RUSH to the hospital.

Small amount of water stays in the front, or at the bottom depending on how one would like to call it. If baby is in head-down position, which is the preferred position for normal delivery, that small amount of water is below the baby’s head. If  baby’s position is”engaged” well position, water should not break gushing down. If water gushes down, then it is a sign that the head is not engaged well.  If water does not gush down, it does not mean baby’s head is big and blocking the water, it means the baby is engaged well for delivery and that is good. Major quantity of water (amniotic fluid) comes out gushing down and it should only happen after the baby is out.  It can happen before, but if it does, it means the head is not engaged well. The delivery process after water breaking may be slow depending upon the degree of contraction. In some cases, after the water breaking (small amount or gush), contractions may not be good enough to push the baby out, so it might lead to assisted delivery.

Again ignorant me used to think that contraction happens at the vagina. Well the dilation, which is linked to contraction, is at the vagina, but you feel the contraction at your lower abdomen. Contractions happening at the upper abdomen (midwife told me) during early stages, meaning middle stage of pregnancy or even earlier, is called Braxton Hicks Contractions. It is a false alarm. Read on what contraction is and how it feels.

Contractions occur at regular and increasingly shorter intervals and become longer and stronger in intensity.

Baby starts coming out when the dilation is 10cm wide. Until 5cm or so, you will not be admitted into the hospital/birthing unit. Less than 5cm wide dilated can stay for days. It is impossible not to be anxious when dilated however less it is. But it is important to keep calm, walk more, be as much active as you can, take nice bath, and what not… is the advise given to us. Dilation and contractions are linked. Midwife will examine and tell the width of dilation. We might feel the dilation is wide enough to get admitted into the hospital, but the midwife after examining, will send us back if the dilation is not wide enough. I cannot see myself doing anything calm after 1cm dilation.


You may pass your mucus plug — the small amount of thickened mucus that’s sealed your cervical canal during the last nine months — if your cervix begins to dilate as you get close to labor. The plug may come out all at once in a lump, or as increased vaginal discharge over the course of several days. The mucus may be tinged with blood (which may be brown, pink, or red), which is why it’s referred to as “bloody show.”

Midwife was not laughing when people suggested to follow instinct to identify the onset of labour. She in fact agreed with it. I do not think my instincts will be in working order during the last stage of my pregnancy which has started already for me!


Now I realise that I need to take notes to remember things. I have forgotten many other things I wanted to write here. Will edit to add as I remember.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. j.p
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 13:49:51

    its a lovely article.It cleared many of my doubts regarding delivery. I am in verge of my pregnancy and expecting my kid soon.


  2. Premalatha
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 15:11:06

    Hi J.P,

    Read The Labour and Birth Choices and Birth Plan as well.

    In what week are you? I am in my 35th week. Very anxious to see my kid soon too. 🙂


  3. j.p
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 07:54:42

    Hi Prema,
    Today is my 34w+3days. My due date is Jan 21st. Hope my baby will come out soon. I didnt have any chance to attend any Birth classes. So i was not aware of so many things. And the above article gave me so much insight.

    By the way when is your Due date?


    • mckenzie
      Dec 20, 2009 @ 09:03:48

      hi i,m due on 22nd jan a day after you how u find your pregnancy now i,m gettin tired can,t move anywhere comfortable


      • Premalatha
        Dec 24, 2009 @ 10:39:20

        Hi, that was two years back. but I am due again on 23rd this year as well. I am getting tired too, can’t move well too. Hope you have a safe delivery.

  4. Premalatha
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 08:41:52

    What a coincidence! my due date is 21st Jan too. 🙂
    There are plenty of information available in the internet, but one has to know what to read. Birth classes are the best. read through my other posts, mail me or leave a comment, if you want more detail on anything as I have not done exhaustive on any topic, but have given some idea on what to look for. Go through “The Labour” post and the “Birth Choices and Birth Plan” post. There are many things you have to know and decide before going into that delivery room. If you don’t know what “membrane sweeping” is for example, the action might scare you and might leave you traumatised. Read my previous posts on these issues and ask me if you want to know anything. I am jobless and doing nothing but reading about these things these days. I am more than happy to write on anything for you.


  5. j.p
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 12:28:08

    Hi Prema,
    I am happy for your quick reply. Yeah i got to see your other posts too and it is useful. Tommorow is my last working day. Then i am moving to native this weekend for delivery. I will be back to work by June i guesss.

    One sad news is i dont have internet facility in my home(native). So i will not be able to keep in touch with you. But i will make my hubby to write to you about my delivery.

    My thoughts will be with you on Jan 21st. Its a nice concidence….. 🙂


  6. Premalatha
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 14:35:36


    All the best to your delivery.
    Though my due date for normal delivery is Jan 21, it is going to be brought forward as I am going for elective Caesarean.
    My thoughts will be with you on your delivery day. Ask your husband to mail me all about your delivery. Ask him to write about your health and your baby’s health.
    Take care.


  7. j.p
    Dec 14, 2007 @ 06:44:13

    Hi Prema,

    Surely i will ask him to write. Bye dear. Wish you a safe delivery.

    God Bless


  8. Premalatha
    Dec 14, 2007 @ 09:25:40

    All the best to you and Wish you also a safe delivery J.P.


  9. CV
    Jan 01, 2010 @ 11:53:03

    Thanks for a very informative article! We tend to forget the importance of instinct…


    Mar 20, 2012 @ 05:25:08

    I am not very superb with English but I find this very easy to interpret.


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