For some women, the very first sign that anything is happening is that their waters break. Sometimes, it is obvious that the waters have broken by the fact that you soak your underwear or bed. (In fact, it is a good idea to sleep with a towel under you towards the end of your pregnancy to avoid damage to your mattress.)
However, for a lot of women it may be difficult to be sure if the waters have broken. Many women describe feeling ‘damp down below’ due to the increased amount of vaginal discharge that is normal at the end of pregnancy. If you find that you have to wear a sanitary pad due to the amount of fluid you are losing, you need to consider if your waters could have broken. One way for you to check is to have a shower, dry the vaginal area well and put on a maternity sanitary pad. If that pad quickly becomes damp or wet, it is likely that your waters have broken.
When the waters break, the fluid may be clear or slightly straw coloured. Sometimes there may be a vague tinge of pink in the waters. This is normal and should not alarm you. If your waters have broken, you should come in for a check-up to ensure all is well with you and your baby. If the fluid is green or green/brown in colour or heavily blood stained, you should come into the assessment and emergency unit immediately. Please remember to bring with you any stained sanitary pads you have for the midwife or doctor to see.
Show – as the cervix (neck of the womb) starts to stretch, a plug of mucous may be released. Typically, this plug or ‘show’ is bloodstained and sticky. This bloodstaining will be old brown blood or light pink. Many women describe a show as being like the very beginning or very end of their period. You should not see bright fresh blood. Not all women will have a show before labour starts and a show is not a sure sign of labour.
Pain – very early in labour, you may experience irregular cramping pains, like period pains. You may also have backache and a heavy sensation in your pelvis. This is all completely normal and is an encouraging sign that your body is getting ready for labour.
Restlessness – not being able to focus on one thing, or being unable to sit still but not really being sure what you want to do. Not all women feel like this.