Labour: What is it & where to learn more?

Pregnant person in pain standing in an open room

What is labour? And how do I know if I’m in labour? These are the two most common questions that I’ve been asked by pregnant individuals during the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP).

Preparing for labour and birth is an important step during your pregnancy.  Prenatal education can help you and your support person make informed decisions about your pregnancy and your birth plan.

So, what is labour?

Labour is the process of your body getting ready to birth your baby.

Typically, labour occurs between the 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy. A baby born during this time is considered full term. Preterm labour occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy, and a baby born during this time is considered preterm/premature.

Talk to your health care provider about your birth plan, who to call when in labour and when to proceed to the hospital (if necessary).

Many of you are probably thinking – ‘how do I actually know if I’m going into true labour?’

Here’s some signs of labour:

True contractions

  • Have a regular pattern
  • Intensify and occur more frequently as time passes
  • Can become more intense when walking
  • Are usually felt in the lower back, radiating to the abdomen and legs

Bloody show

  • As the cervix prepares for birth, it begins to soften by thinning (effacing) and opening (dilating). The cervix is a vascular area and as it begins to open the mucous plug gets released and some blood vessels will rupture thus causing a brownish or blood-tinged mucous in varying amounts.

Rupture of membranes (aka ‘water breaking’)

  • Colourless and odourless fluid leaking, dripping or gushing from the vagina.
  • During pregnancy your baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid which is encased in a membrane (amniotic sac). Once the membrane is broken you may notice fluid dripping or gushing from the vagina.

Are you interested in learning more? Join our free CPNP program which offers additional supports like a healthy meal/snack, free childcare for your older children, and interpretation (if needed).

Register with Toronto Public Health and speak to a Public Health Nurse about the program via eChat or (416) 338-7600.

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