Dr. Elizabeth Pryor on Delayed Signs of Approaching Labor

Why don't I have any sign of labor?
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Question

I'm 39 weeks pregnant. How come I don't have any sign of approaching labor?

Answer

Only about 5 percent of women actually deliver on their due date. It is very common for women to go past their due date. It happens all the time, not to worry.

Signs to look out for include decreased fetal movement, leakage of fluid, vaginal bleeding, and contractions every five minutes lasting for approximately one minute, for over one hour.

Many doctors will consider induction of labor after 41 weeks in an otherwise uncomplicated pregnancy. Tests that can be performed to be sure the fetus is doing well include an ultrasound to test amniotic fluid, and a monitor test to check the baby's heartbeat known as a nonstress test. Lastly, your doctor will likely check your cervix at your next appointment, and hopefully that will lead to some encouraging news.

Contrary to popular belief, losing the "mucus plug" is not a sign of imminent labor. Actually, labor may not occur for up to three weeks after losing the plug. It's a better sign for the first baby, but not necessarily for subsequent children.

First babies will engage into the pelvis before actual labor begins. This is known as "the baby dropping." Commonly this will occur around 37 weeks. Interestingly, after a woman has had several children, the baby will not drop -- or engage -- until labor actually begins.

You will know when the baby drops due to increased pelvic pressure, particularly on the pubic bone. This process takes some time -- baby doesn't drop quickly. The examination by your doctor will tell you if your baby is engaged or not.

False signs of labor are common. First-time mom Lacy tells us about her three-day labor-and-delivery journey, which resulted in the birth of her baby girl.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

American Baby

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