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Most pregnant women are anxiously waiting for their baby’s arrival in the third trimester and wish they would know when they will go into labor. But it is not so easy to predict when it will happen, especially because there are some early signs of labor that can be misinterpreted. However, we collected the most common signs of labor that may signal that your baby will arrive soon, so you will know when labor may be approaching. Let’s get started and let’s see 10 common signs labor is near.
It’s important to note that every woman is VERY different- so these are very general guidelines. Always talk to your OB or midwife about any concerns. For example, I had NO signs of early labor whatsoever until 24 hours before my daughter was born. I was feeling very discouraged because my doc was telling me that she was still sitting quite high in my uterus and that my cervix hasn’t changed at all. Yet, only 36 hours after she told me this I had my baby girl in my arms. Whereas, I know many woman have labor symptoms and changes in their cervix week before they are due!
The bottom line: Don’t compare yourself to others! Trust in your body and baby that they know what they are doing. After all, you conceived and grew that baby thanks to nature, and nature will help you get that baby out safely too 😉
Very early signs of labor
First, we will talk about those very early signs of labor that may appear even weeks before going to labor. Usually, women experience these signs from 1 hour to 1 month before labor.
1. The baby starts to drop (known as “lightening”)
One of the first signs of labor may be that your baby starts to drop. This means that your baby is getting ready for the arrival and descends into the pelvis. This way, the baby will be in a position that is ideal for the delivery: the head will be down and low.
This process is also called “lightening” and can happen just a few hours before the labor begins or even 2-4 weeks before giving birth. In general, we can say that first-time moms experience lightening earlier than those who have already given birth before.
When this occurs, you may notice less pressure on your lungs and stomach. Whereas, the pressure on your bladder may be hard to deal with thanks to baby’s head position!
2. The cervix dilates
As your body is preparing for birth, your cervix will also start to efface (turn from a longer canal shape to a wide flat shape) and dilate (open). You really won’t realize it by yourself but during your weekly check-ups, your doctor will measure the dilation by internal exams. Don’t worry if it happens weeks before your due date, or you are not dilating at all a few days before you deliver. It’s completely normal because everyone has different progress. Therefore, the dilation of the cervix can occur several days or weeks before the delivery.
Related read: WHAT IS A BIRTH PLAN? AND WHY YOU NEED ONE
3. You have loose bowel movements or diarrhea
Let’s admit it. Diarrhea can be a very unpleasant symptom. But it is one of the possible signs that labor is near.
One of the reasons why you may experience diarrhea before going into labor is that the body is emptying the bowels. This way, the uterus can contract better when the time comes.
If you have loose bowel movements or diarrhea, make sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
4. You either stop gaining weight or you experience slight weight loss
Another interesting sign is that pregnant women stop gaining weight, or they may even lose some weight when labor is near. You should be aware that if this happens to you, you don’t have anything to worry about. Your baby may still gain some weight. Your weight loss is most likely caused by the decrease of the amniotic fluid, your increased activity, or your more frequent toilet visits.
Related read: WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG FOR LABOR
5. You feel like your joints are looser
If you feel like your joints are looser than usual, possibly labor is approaching. This can be a sign that your body is preparing to open up the pelvis and deliver your baby. However, you may realize loose and relaxed joints all over the body.
6. Change in your activity level
Some of the signs can be very confusing or it may seem like mother nature has a good sense of humor. The next sign is also one of them.
If you notice a change in your activity level, it may indicate that soon it’s labor time! But the change can occur in both ways: you may suddenly feel extremely tired or you may have a huge urge to nest. Funny, isn’t it?
It is completely understandable if you feel exhausted and sleepy at the end of the pregnancy. It’s not easy to have a good night’s sleep with that enormous belly and then we didn’t even talk about the constant urge to go to pee.
However, for some moms, it can be the exact opposite. In their case, the nesting instinct kicks in and they start to clean the whole house and prepare everything for the baby at home. They can organize all the baby clothes as well!
Both this sudden energy boost and the above-mentioned fatigue can be signs labor is near.
Related read: BABY CLOTHES ORGANIZATION IDEAS
Early signs of labor
After the very early signs of labor, let’s look at signs that show that labor is just a few hours or maximum a few days away.
7. The water breaks
This is a classic sign that indicates that the moment when you can hold your baby in your arms is getting closer. But if your water breaks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will give birth immediately. It may still take a few hours until labor begins. (Call your doctor if contractions haven’t begun yet.)
Also, you should know that the sac of amniotic fluid usually doesn’t get broken the same way you can see in the movies. In most cases, women feel just a small leak.
Plus, most likely you will have regular contractions prior to the water break. Most women experience their water breaking when they are already in active labor.
8. You lose the mucus plug and the color of your vaginal discharge changes
To protect the baby from any kind of infection, the cervix is closed with a mucus plug during the pregnancy. When labor is near, your cervix dilates which can cause you to lose the mucus plug as well. If you don’t know how to imagine it, it is about a teaspoonful of mucus (similar to that one in your nose) that may have a pinkish or brownish color. While some women lose it in one big piece, others experience rather lots of little pieces.
A few days before labor you may also have thickened discharge. But because of its pinkish color, it is called the “bloody show”.
Either way, if you lose your mucus plug or you have pinkish vaginal discharge, the bloody show has begun and labor may be only some days or hours away. If you’re concerned about the health of your baby with any of this, don’t hesitate to call your doctor!
9. Your contractions become stronger and more frequent
Contractions can be quite tricky. You may think that when you have contractions, it signs labor is near. But it is not always the case. Maybe you are experiencing the so-called Braxton Hicks contractions that are false labor or practice contractions. They can appear weeks or months before birth.
On the other hand, real contractions may be signs of labor. If you would like to know the difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions, here is a little help:
- Braxton Hicks contractions ease up after a time and usually go away with a change in position. Real contractions don’t.
- Real contractions become stronger, more frequent, more intensive, are VERY regular too. Braxton Hicks contractions don’t get more intensive, they go away after a time.
Related read: The Benefits of Natural Birth During a Pandemic
10. Your back pain gets worse
Although most women are suffering from back pain for months during the pregnancy, if the pain becomes worse, it may be a sign of labor. In fact many women complain more of back pain than uterus pain initially (like a light period cramp that gets worse). Many pregnant women experience this kind of labor pain because the descending baby’s skull starts to push the mother’s spine and the pain radiates to the back. If you feel harsh back pain, possibly you will go into labor soon- so have your hospital bag and baby names ready to go! 🙂
Hopefully, by now you know what you should look out for as signs labor is near. If you experience any of these signs, chances are labor is just around the corner. But in case you are not sure whether they are real signs of labor or just false alarms, it’s better if you consult your doctor. They can always exam you and let you know what’s going on- no harm there 😉 Don’t forget to tune into your body and trust it! You will be parents very soon!
Are you experiencing any of the above-mentioned labor signs- currently or with past births? Let us know in the comments.