As you enter 3rd trimester, your body undergoes certain changes to prepare for labor. And the first such change occurs in the hormones. Progesterone, which has been high all this while, reduces with an increase in Estrogen, Oxytocin and Prostaglandin levels - all of which relax the ligaments in the pelvis and help the cervix to thin out and eventually, start dilating.
There are certain signs you may notice towards the end of the 3rd trimester that indicate that labor is approaching. These signs include:
Dropping/Lightening - Your baby will “drop” i.e., descend deeper into the abdomen and settle into the pelvis. This usually happens 2 to 4 weeks before labor actually begins. It will be a welcome relief since you will be able to breathe more easily and if you are still suffering from heartburn, that will reduce too or go away completely.
Frequent urination - Since your baby is closer to the bladder, you may feel the need to urinate more often.
Cramps and lower back pain - Cramping occurs when the uterine and pelvic ligaments start to stretch. This abdominal tightening will feel similar to pre-menstrual cramps, but will be irregular. This can occur 1 to 2 weeks before labor starts. The lower back pain is usually a dull ache that comes and goes. This could be caused by the position of the baby, lower down into the pelvis.
Loosening of joints - Joints in your body will start to relax in preparation for labor, thanks to the hormone Relaxin. This includes relaxing of the pelvis as well, to make childbirth easier.
Diarrhoea - Think of it as “Nature’s enema”. Muscles of the rectum will relax, causing loose stools, cleaning out your intestine and making more space for the baby to eventually descend lower during labor and childbirth.
Vaginal discharge - You may find an increased amount of vaginal discharge that looks like egg whites or is tinged pinkish.
Bloody show - This is another term for losing your mucous plug, which is an accumulation of mucous that keeps your cervix sealed shut during pregnancy. This may come out as a brownish or pinkish discharge as the cervix opens up to prepare for labor.
Sudden burst of energy - This is also called the “nesting instinct” because a lot of mothers use this energy boost to organise everything around the house and get everything ready for their baby. However, nature is giving you this extra energy as a reserve to use during the actual labor process, so it may be best to rest and not overdo the “nesting”.
Dilation and thinning of the cervix - The cervix slowly starts the process of preparing itself for labor, becoming softer and thinner. A thin cervix dilates more easily so this is your body’s way of adapting to the upcoming process of childbirth.
Breaking of the water bag - We prefer to refer to this as “release of membranes”. This could just be a thin trickle of colourless and odourless amniotic fluid rather than a dramatic gush of fluid. This is usually a sign that labor is imminent; it is advisable to contact your healthcare provider if this happens.