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Is Fatigue a Sign of Labor?

| By Suzanne Robin
Is Fatigue a Sign of Labor?
Fatigue is not a sign of labor. Photo Credit Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images

As you near the end of your pregnancy, sick of aching back and swollen feet, you might wake up one morning with the strange desire to repaint the bathroom or clean the attic. No, pregnancy hasn't driven you crazy -- this might be the "nesting urge" many pregnant women experience just before they go into labor. Rather than causing fatigue, approaching labor may trigger a burst of energy. This is not, however, considered an actual sign of labor, although it may get your house clean before you leave for the hospital.

True Signs of Labor

True signs of labor are much more concrete than a sudden burst of energy. Many doctors define true labor as regular contractions 5 minutes apart, but not every woman's labor falls into this pattern. Call if you're having regular contractions lasting at least 30 seconds and becoming progressively stronger. Progressive cervical dilation, the opening of the cervix so the baby can pass through the birth canal, also counts as a sign of labor. Fatigue may develop if you have a long labor, but it doesn't qualify as a sign of labor.

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Signs of Impending Labor

Signs of impending labor can occur a few days or a few hours before labor actually starts. If your water breaks at the end of a full-term pregnancy, even if you don't have contractions yet, you most likely will go into labor within the next 4 to 6 hours, according to Harvard University Health Services. If labor doesn't start, your medical practitioner may induce labor, to prevent a possible infection since the baby no longer has the protective sac around him. Passing your mucus plug, which may have streaks of blood on it, is a sign that your cervix has started to dilate. Many women dilate a little before labor starts, so this isn't a sign of labor, but means labor may start soon.

Signs You're Getting Ready for Labor

In your first pregnancy, your baby normally "drops" by settling further down in the pelvis, a change known as "lightening." You might feel lighter, since the baby doesn't crowd your ribs as much once she drops. Because you can breathe more easily, you may feel less fatigued. On the downside, you might find it harder to walk once the baby drops, since you now have increased pressure on your bladder and pelvis. In second and subsequent pregnancies, you may not experience lightening at all.

Concerning Signs With Fatigue

If you experience extreme fatigue accompanied by sudden weight gain, headache, facial swelling, extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, blurred vision and decreased urination, call your doctor immediately. You may have preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening complication of pregnancy. Between 5 to 8 percent of American women develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

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author image Suzanne Robin
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.
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