Print Friendly and PDF

You're. So. Close. Seriously, you're going to giving birth any day now. But these last weeks of pregnancy can be tough—lots of discomfort and just feeling so ready to meet your little darling.

Many women wonder how they'll know when they are in labor.

While it looks different for everyone, there are a few early signs of labor to look out for. (If you have these signs before you're 37 weeks, let your provider know right away in case it's preterm labor.)

1. Nesting

In the days or hours leading up to labor, some moms get a serious boost of energy. Just like a mama bird getting her nest ready for her hatchlings, you may find yourself busy getting things ready for your little chickadee. Remember to schedule in plenty of rest, fluids and snacks so you have energy for birth. And be careful, no climbing ladders to dust the top of the ceiling fan please.

(Should nesting turn to nursery decorating, here are a few of our favorites.)

2. Losing your mucus plug

During pregnancy, a small glob of mucus sits in your cervix, to help protect the baby from bacteria. As your cervix starts to get softer in preparation for labor, the mucus plug may fall out (it looks like when you blow your nose when you have a cold). Some women lose their mucus plug weeks before they give birth, while others lose it when they are actively in labor—so while it's not a tell-tale sign that your baby is coming soon, it is a good sign that things are at least moving in the right direction.

This is sometimes called the "bloody show" because it can have a streak of blood in it. It's most likely totally normal, but never hesitate to call your provider if you need to be reassured! And if you see more than a teaspoon worth of blood, call.

3. Diarrhea

A hormone called prostaglandin is released in your body as it prepares to go into labor. Prostaglandin helps to make your cervix softer and loser (so it can dilate), but it also makes your bowels loser—in other words, you might have diarrhea, and/or more frequent trips to the bathroom. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and juice.

4. Your water breaks

We've all seen the movies where a woman is minding her own business when suddenly her water breaks, and the entire world seemingly grinds to a halt. While it is a REALLY exciting moment, it's usually not that dramatic. In fact, only about 10% of women experience their water breaking before labor starts—it usually breaks during labor.

When your water breaks, it may be a big gush of fluid or it may be a small but steady trickle. If your water breaks at home call your doctor or midwife to give them a heads up and discuss the plan. Then, remember TACO:

  • Time: What time did your water break?
  • Amount: How much fluid came out?
  • Color: Ideally it will be clear. If it's green or brown, call your provider right away
  • Odor: Amniotic fluid does not have much of a smell to it. Anything yucky smelling could indicate a problem, so again, call your provider

Note: It's super rare, but occasionally an emergency called a prolapsed cord can occur. If your water breaks and you think you feel the umbilical cord in your vagina, get in an elbows-and-knees position and call 911 right away.

5. Cramping + contractions

Ultimately, labor is about contractions—your uterus is a big (awesome) muscle that contracts to help dilate the cervix, and ease the baby down and out. Labor happens in phases: Early labor and then active labor.

Early labor is when your cervix dilates from zero to six centimeters

This is usually the longest part of labor, especially for first time moms. It often starts with mild contractions that feel a lot like menstrual cramps. They'll probably be irregular (anywhere from five to thirty minutes apart, and short (about 45 seconds). Contractions will gradually become more frequent, longer and more intense. Many women describe a tightening sensation that starts in their lower back and moves towards their belly.

When you start to have contractions that aren't going away, call your provider to give them a heads up. There is a good chance they'll encourage you to stay home during early labor. You'll be more comfortable there, and your risk of medical interventions decreases by staying home longer.

In active labor, your cervix will dilate from six to eight centimeters. Contractions are more regular (about every three to four minutes), last longer (about 60 seconds), and are much more intense- they now require all of your attention, and can cause a fair amount of discomfort. Many describe a downward pressure, along with some degree of pain- but, this varies for everyone!

You'll likely head to your birthing place during active labor.

The general rule is 4-1-1

You're in active labor when contractions are four minutes apart, lasting one minute each, and this has been going on for an hour. But again, call your provider so they can help with the plan.

And then... well then you become a mama.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

My official title at home is Mom, but my unofficial title is CEO of Family Operations. Parenting is a team effort, sure, but I tend to take on the largest share of responsibility for keeping everything in the household afloat. It's theoretically possible to tackle the daily demands of motherhood, marriage and work as an army of one. It's also highly unpleasant. The key to preserving a shred of sanity? Learning to delegate.

Accepting or asking for help is something many moms, myself included, struggle with, but the most effective corporate CEOs do it every day without guilt or apology.

FEATURED VIDEO

Delegating seems easy enough in the instances when handling something yourself isn't an option. If you work full-time, for example, then, of course, you need outside help with childcare. If a pipe bursts in your house, you hire a plumber. If you forget you volunteered to make cookies for the school bake sale, you turn to the good folks over at your local bakery and call it a day.

Delegating gets trickier, however, when you know you're able to take on a certain task, but only at a significant cost to your already limited time and energy.

One of the biggest traps I fall into is the idea that "If I can do it, I should do it." That attitude often leaves me feeling overloaded, frazzled and generally frustrated. For instance, I have three kids who need to bathe on a semi-regular basis. I am usually home in the run-up to bedtime, and I spent years feeling as though I should be an active participant in bath time while also getting dinner on the table and trying not to snap at everybody.

But why? I have a perfectly capable husband who is home most evenings, and two of my kids are old enough to handle turning on a shower and opening a shampoo bottle. I'm sure bath time in some houses is full of laughter and bubbles, but at my house, it usually turns into whining and splashing as I think longingly ahead to the hour when all the non-grownups will be in bed.

This was clearly a situation that called for delegating, and I finally got over my irrational guilt and did just that. Everyone gets clean just fine on their own (or with the help of another competent adult), and I am happier every evening because of it.

When Facebook experiences a technical glitch, Mark Zuckerberg could likely write the code to fix it, but instead he delegates. Shonda Rhimes could conceivably come up with every new romantic plot twist in Grey's Anatomy, but she has a Shondaland empire to run, so she delegates. There is no reason the rest of us should behave any differently.

Once I stopped equating "can" with "should," and once I started accepting a helping hand and figuring out alternative solutions, I was able to devote more time and energy to the parts of parenting that are the most meaningful to me and my kids. To be clear: that doesn't mean I now simply delegate all the hard, exhausting and painful stuff—or even most of it. But I'm less often sidetracked by the things that really aren't that important. Slowly but steadily, I'm getting better at sharing the load.

Moms are CEOs of a nonstop, extremely demanding and unpredictable operation. By opening up a little bandwidth, we're able to remember that it's also the best job in the world.

Life

Winter is here, mama, full of snow days, toasty fireplaces and yummy hot cocoa. But the colder temperatures can bring an onslaught of hair issues, like split ends and hair breakage. Your hair can actually accumulate a lot of damage in this season. Sure, most breakage is from the cold temperatures, but wool hats and scarves can also leave your strands pretty wrecked, too. Add in an itchy scalp that follows because of the lack of moisture in the air and you're in need of a little hair care.

So if you're making seasonal swaps with your skincare, home decor, and kid essentials, follow suit with your hair routine. That's why we asked Linsey Barbuto, artistic director and founder of Perlei salon, and Judy McGuinness, stylist at Mizu Licari Hair salon, for their top tips mamas can use to protect hair from the winter elements.

Here are their go-to tips for healthy, frizz-free, shiny locks:

1. Skip parabens + sulfates

We always make sure to protect our little ones from harsh ingredients, so why shouldn't we protect ourselves, too? When choosing a product to use on your hair, whether it be a shampoo or a styling product (a good go-to is Oribe shampoos and conditioners), always check the label, says Barbuto. If the product contains parabens (a preserve used to keep cosmetics fresh), sulfates (chemicals used as cleansing agents) or phthalates (chemicals used to soften solvents in cosmetics) stay away. Some studies have suggested that these ingredients are hormone disruptors, and many have been linked to cancer.

FEATURED VIDEO

2. Create a washing routine

Not all hair is created equal so the overarching rule of washing your hair twice a week might work for some, but it can be damaging for others. To determine the right amount of washing for your mane, identify the type of hair you have. "Here's my rule—if you have curly and coily hair, wash it once a week; if it's frizzy, wash it every three to four days; if you have fine hair, opt for every other since it gets super oily," says Barbuto.

Editor pick: Eufora urgent repair shampoo

3. Avoid using a bath towel to dry your hair

Wrapping your hair tightly with a bath towel causes stress and damage to your hair. The friction can cause breakage, knots and eventually lead to split ends. But, if you've been using a towel, don't stress it—simply switch to an old t-shirt or a microfiber towel instead, says Barbuto. And, if you must use a bath towel, pat, don't rub your hair.

Editor pick: Aquis hair towel

4. Try a nourishing hair oil

Simply put, hair oils coat the outer cuticle of the hair shaft, leaving it protected from harsh winter elements. "I've played around with a few different brands, but end up going back to Oribe's gold lust oil to preserve my hair," says McGuinness. It's not too heavy, can be used on wet or dry hair, and prevents and helps to heal damaged ends."

Editor pick: Amika glass action universal elixir

5. Use a hair mask weekly

For busy moms, a shower can feel like an indulgence, so why not add in some hair love?

"Simply run a generous amount through your dry hair, focusing on the ends," says McGuinness. "Wait 5 minutes then hop in the shower and shampoo and conditioner as usual! I've found this to be the easiest way to treat my blonde ends, without feeling like I'm wasting time." McGuinness' pick? Jess & Lou's 5 minute resq hair therapy.

Editor pick: Briogeo don't despair, repair! deep conditioning mask

6. Back off on the heat

In the summer, it's much easier to just let your hair dry naturally, but there are a couple ways to get the benefits of no heat in the winter as well. "I like to take a shower at night and air dry my hair before bed. If necessary, in the morning I'll quickly run a large curling iron through my hair to give a little undone texture," says McGuinness. "Once you're happy with your style, apply dry shampoo to extend your style. Each day add in a bit more, massaging in with your fingers to absorb excess oil." Her current favorite is Dry Bar's detox dry shampoo—"a little goes a long way, and I don't have to wash my hair for at least two or three days," she says.

Editor pick: Cake Beauty the 'do gooder volumizing dry shampoo

7. Maintain haircuts

Even if you're growing your hair out, it's important to get a trim or dusting to remove split ends about every two months, says McGuinness. This keeps the split ends from traveling further up your hair shaft, leading to a bigger cut in the future.

8. Swap shampoo for a cleansing creme

Instead of using a shampoo, try a cleansing creme instead. "It doesn't have to be for every wash, but every time you choose to use a cleansing conditioner in place of regular shampoo, it adds much more moisture without stripping the hair at all," says McGinness. Try Oribe cleansing creme for medium to thick hair, and R+CO analog cleansing foam conditioner for fine to medium hair, says McGinness.

Editor pick: AG Hair texture cleansing cream
Life

Parenthood has a way of making table talk out of otherwise taboo subjects. Case in point: You will likely keep a subconscious log of your child's bowel movements for several years—and for good reason. Although constipation is relatively common with up to 30% of children experiencing it, parents who understand the triggers and best treatment methods can help reduce discomfort and avoid recurrences.

When trying to find relief for constipation, the very first step should be determining the cause, says Dr. Latha Vrittamani, MD, a pediatrician with Stanford Children's Health. The challenge here is that there are multiple possibilities, including both physical and psychological triggers.

That said, the majority of pediatric constipation cases Dr. Vrittamani sees at her Bayside Medical Group practice are associated with three transitions: when an infant is starting solids, when a toddler is toilet training and when a child is starting school.

Unfortunately, as diets become more processed and lives become busier, research shows rates of constipation are increasing among the general population—and the issue can compound when a child begins to associate pain with going to the bathroom.

"When there is constipation, try to tackle it early because chronic constipation comes from not intervening at the right time," says Dr. Vrittamani.

Here is what parents should know about pediatric constipation so there can be peace at potty time once again:

Identifying constipation

For the most part, constipation is easy to identify: A child is uncomfortable while unable to pass a stool, experiences minutes of straining and pain while attempting a bowel movement, or goes three or fewer times per week with hard, dry stool. Other side effects may include a distended belly or, in more serious cases, vomiting, fever or bloody stool—which Dr. Vrittamani says are good cues to call a doctor.

Although some children are more prone to constipation due to genetic causes, dietary or psychological factors can be the difference between relatively easy bowel movements or chronic struggles. A smaller number of constipation cases may be related to other causes, such as spinal abnormalities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other conditions diagnosable by a physician.

But there are some misconceptions about constipation that can throw off parents. It's common for breastfed newborns, for example, to go days between stools and they may even appear to strain in order to have a bowel movement because of immature abdominal toning. The difference in these cases is that the babies don't experience the more tell-tale signs of constipation, such as belly distention, irritability or hard stools. (It is best to trust your own gut if you're concerned or call your family pediatrician!)

Dietary causes + cures for constipation

More typically, constipation challenges coincide with the introduction of solid foods—especially as highly starchy, processed or dairy-rich foods enter the baby's diet. Some culprits may even be surprising, such as apples, sweet potatoes and bananas. Rather than banish these foods from the home altogether, Dr. Vrittamani suggests "mixing and matching" at mealtime with foods that can help keep the digestive system moving along.

A few good examples she points to include…

  • "P- fruits," such as prunes, plums, pears, peaches, papaya and pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Berries
  • Lentils
  • Flaxseed for babies over 8 months
  • Brussels sprouts or broccoli
  • Prune juice

If diversifying your child's diet isn't working or you're eager for a short-term solution, Dr. Vrittamani also suggests offering small amounts of a concentrated apple juice. Even in a small dose, the pectin naturally found in apple juice can help stimulate the digestive system—and the encouragement to drink extra fluid can help, too. In fact, limited fluid intake is a commonly overlooked cause that may contribute to constipation. But, thankfully, it is just as easily fixed by encouraging water consumption throughout the day. (A good reminder for us all!)

A few more remedies include…

  • Moving baby's legs in a bicycle motion or encouraging older kids to play.
  • Taking a baby's temperature rectally, which can loosen stools.
  • Giving your baby a warm bath.
  • For older children, drinking warm lemon water.
  • Offering a probiotic supplement or food, such as yogurt.

If the constipation persists, a physician such as those at Stanford Children's Health would be able to offer advice on the proper course of treatment. Dr. Vrittamani says this should always be done before drastic, potentially dangerous steps are taken.

Specifically, she would advise against…

  • Stimulating laxatives
  • Milk of magnesia
  • Changing a baby's formula preparation to include more water
  • Switching to a low-iron formula
  • Mineral oil for children under age 2

Common psychological triggers

Although dietary changes may benefit anyone struggling with constipation, the cause isn't always dietary in nature: Especially in situations like toilet training or going to school for the first time, a child may end up "holding it in" out of fear or anxiety. This can be avoided or minimized by reading a child's cues about how he or she is feeling before sending the child into uncomfortable new territory.

Looking at potty training, parents should look for readiness signs, such as vocalizations about wet diapers and an interest in using the potty that is encouraged with books and videos on the subject. "What is important is for us to realize that when parents do start toilet training they want to do it in a way that is non-threatening so the child is involved in it," says Dr. Vrittamani, adding parents should use "encouragement rather than punishment" and employ non-food rewards.

Like the rest of us, children are also beings of habit, so it can help to create a routine out of potty time. Dr. Vrittamani suggests encouraging a child to sit on a toilet after breakfast each day for no more than 10 minutes, but without distractions from books or videos.

For school-aged children, the same kinds of stress may contribute to constipation, which can be compounded by anxiety about cleaning themselves or having to tell a teacher when they need to go. "All of this becomes a self-esteem issue eventually," says Dr. Vrittamani, explaining parents should work with children before school on having bathroom confidence and independence.

Just as constipation triggers can vary from child to child, the right solution may require a bit of time and experimentation to pin down. But with these best practices in mind for a solid starting point, you can minimize the struggle—and hopefully prevent constipation from making a return to your home anytime soon.

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.