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Premonitory Signs of Labor

Category: Obstetrics or Midwifery

Premonitory signs of labor, usually observed
from one to two weeks before the onset of the labor pains, is a sinking
down of the womb in the abdomen, whereby some of the unpleasant features
of pregnancy are relieved, and the so-called "lightening" takes place. The
waist line becomes small, the breathing is easier and the general
well-being of the woman is better, so that her friends are attracted by
her feeling of relief. But as a result of the womb descent and the
consequent pressure, irritation of the bladder and rectum may occur, and
she may have frequent calls to empty these organs. The vagina secretes
more actively, the veins enlarge, some dropsy may appear in the
extremities, and the womb contractions of pregnancy, which have been
painless, begin to cause more and more discomfort.

These false pains recur at regular intervals of hours or even days, and
generally at night, last for a varying period and usually disappear in the
morning. They often deceive the woman and lead her to the belief that the
labor has already begun; but examination of the cervix will reveal that
this is not so. It is well to bear in mind that the true labor pains
usually begin in the back, extend down to the thighs and often around to
the front and they recur at regular intervals, and with increasing

The beginning of labor is characterized by recurring pains at regular
intervals and of increasing severity. There is also a discharge from the
vagina of mucus, and this is sometimes tinged with blood, "the show." If
an examination is now made, it will be found that the cervix (neck of the
womb) is shortened, and that the mouth of the womb is beginning to dilate.
At the beginning, the pains are usually in the back and spread to the
abdomen and down the thighs; but they may be felt first in the abdomen.
They return every half hour or twenty minutes, but as labor goes on the
interval is shortened, so that toward the end of the second stage when the
child is being born, they appear to be continuous, and the patient feels
as if she is encircled by a belt of pain; however, with all this, she will
bear the suffering easier and better for she knows that progress is being
made, and that she will soon be over the pains and the child born. A pain
rarely lasts more than one minute.


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