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FOR SURE signs labor is 24-48 hours away- get ready!!

FOR SURE signs labor is 24-48 hours away- get ready!!


What are the signs labor is 24-48 hours away? How do you feel right before labor starts? How do you feel 24 hours before labor? What are the signs of labor approaching?

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It’s not always crystal clear, however there are some signs more than others that you can rely on.

In the days and hours leading up to each of my three labor and deliveries, there were some clues that stood out with each one. There were some big differences, too!

Pssst… Have you gotten everything you need for the hospital yet? There’s a few things I wouldn’t go without, and I’ve had 4 babies:

Nursing bra (this is the one I’ve been using since baby #1 and still buy them to this day. That’s a decade of them.)

Nipple cream (this one smells like chocolate and is completely safe for baby- no worries here.)

Perennial spray (you’ll want this to spray, you know, down there. It’ll bring some much needed relief.)

Nursing pillow (this one is great, especially if it’s your first baby!)

Here’s the full hospital bag checklist– comes with a free printable list!

My first and second pregnancies started with my water breaking so I KNEW it was time. Before that, I had a bloody show and could tell labor was on the way.

With my second pregnancy, the bloody show happened about 8 hours before my water broke.

My third baby started with very strong contractions and no other signs. Every pregnancy and labor can be very different!

I just had my 4th baby so the signs are fresh in my mind 🙂 I had a burst of energy 3 days before. Like, LOTS of energy. Two days before, I was exhausted and had Braxton Hicks that felt fairly strong and more painful than normal. One day before, I woke up at 4am with strong and regular contractions that eventually stopped. On the day I went into labor, I was up at 4am again with regular contractions around 8 min apart and pretty strong. I had a bloody show around 8am and knew that baby was coming. By 11am the contractions were 5 min apart and I went to the hospital. My baby was born at 3pm that afternoon!

Hopefully these obvious signs of labor will help you figure out if it’s time to get ready!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our full disclosure here.

Signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away:

  1. Loss of mucus plug
  2. Bloody show
  3. Weight loss
  4. Discharge
  5. Nesting
  6. Extreme fatigue
  7. Diarrhea
  8. Back pain
  9. Contractions
  10. Ripened cervix
  11. Water breaking

Let’s dive in to these symptoms before labor begins:

Loss Of Mucus Plug

A mucus plug is something your body creates from the moment of conception to protect your baby from harmful germs and bacteria. It is literally a plug on the end of your cervix that’s made of mucus, charming, I know.

You might notice losing this but you might not. Some women have seen it drop into the toilet, some have wiped it away after peeing and some have felt it in their underwear.

My first baby, I never noticed a mucus plug. With my second baby, I distinctly remember losing my mucus plug the evening before my water broke at 2am.

With my third, I actually lost my mucus plug at 35 weeks and was CONVINCED I was going to have a very early baby.

After doing a lot of research, I discovered that you can, in fact, lose your mucus plug more than once. Your body will just regenerate it if it comes out too early!

So, how long after losing your mucus plug does labor start?

If you lose your mucus plug that means your cervix is starting to dilate- yay! However that can mean that labor is hours away or as long as 1-2 weeks.

RELATED: How To Safely Speed Up Labor After You Lose Your Mucus Plug

Bloody Show

Sometimes people use the terms “mucus plug” and “bloody show” interchangeably but they’re slightly different.

The mucus plug is transparent and contains little to no blood while the bloody show is mucus tinged with red or brown blood.

If you have a bloody show, it means you’ve lost your mucus plug and your cervix is preparing for labor!

This JUST happened to be with the birth of my fourth baby. I had a bloody show at 8am and knew baby was on the way- she was born at 3pm that afternoon.

RELATED: How To Induce Labor (quickly and naturally!)

Weight Loss

Don’t get too excited, it’s not a lot of weight loss. It can be anywhere from 1-3 pounds of water weight that you shed in the days before you go into labor.

Increased Vaginal Discharge

You might notice increased vaginal discharge before labor that’s clear, pink or mildy bloody. You may experience increased vaginal discharge that is thicker, or changes color up to a month before birth.

Nesting or Being Extremely Fatigued

Is sudden exhaustion a sign that labor is close?

Extreme fatigue before labor is a pretty good sign of what’s coming. On the flip side- you may get a burst of energy and start nesting!

Those last few days before you go into active labor can be confusing. Either your body will be trying to conserve energy for childbirth or you’ll be getting in some last minute nesting!

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I had a sudden burst of energy at 37 weeks. I packed my hospital bag, cleaned the house and then my water broke at 6am the next morning.

Pay attention to energy levels!

If you are nesting and want to be totally prepared for baby, try grabbing some HelloBello diapers! They are cheap and so cute- get your first bundle for 40% off with the code DIAPERS at checkout 🙂

Diarrhea- Is Pooping a Sign of Labor Coming Soon?

It certainly can be!

This happens because your muscles are getting an extra dose of relaxin leading up to birth. This means that ALL your muscles get it, including your rectum muscles.

But, this is a good thing because it helps your body void all unnecessary contents before you give birth!

Ie; no pooping during delivery!

It can still happen though- just to warn you. It’s hard not to worry about it, but try not to.

All the nurses that will help you have seen it before, they’re absolutely professional and will whisk it away before anyone can see it!

RELATED: Diarrhea: how soon before labor?

signs that labor is 24-48 hours away/signs of labor/signs of labor approaching

Back Pain

If you start having lower back pain and a crampy feeling, that can be a sign that labor has started or is approaching. This is because your muscles and joints are shifting for birth.

Contractions- Where do you feel contractions?

How do you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions?

Braxton Hicks:

  • Irregular and infrequent, lasting only 15-30 seconds.
  • Subside if you change position.
  • Usually only felt in the belly.

Real contractions:

  • Consistently get stronger and more frequent.
  • They don’t go away if you stand up or change position.
  • Last about 30-70 seconds each.
  • Start in the lower back and wrap around the front.

RELATED: Where do you feel contractions during labor and birth?

True labor vs. false labor

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Ripened Cervix

By this point you’ll be seeing your doctor a lot. They’ll be checking each time to see if you’re dilated at all. If you’re dilated past 3cm that can mean you may be going into labor soon.

To give you some hope though, if you aren’t dilated yet, here’s what happened with my third baby:

I saw my doctor around 9am on my baby’s actual due date and she checked me. She laughed and said I wasn’t even 1cm so I shouldn’t hold my breath over the baby coming any time soon.

So I left thinking it was going to be a week or two. I went into labor at 2:30 that day and had my baby at 6:16. You never know.

RELATED: How To Have A Faster Labor

Water Breaking

It shocked me to learn that only 15% of women have their water break before labor begins. If it does happen, it means you’re going into labor, yay!

My water broke with 2 out of 3 babies before labor started. My daughter, hours before and my son about 20 minutes. With my 3rd, my water broke during active labor.

RELATED: Epidurals- Should You Get One?

Is Nausea A Sign Of Labor?

Nausea and vomiting is experienced by a lot of women at some point during labor.

Sometimes, nausea can happen before labor but generally it happens during the active first stage of labor. I have definitely felt nauseous due to the pain from contractions.

If you do end up vomiting, keep drinking fluids to stay hydrated.

What Is False Labor?

It may be false labor if the contractions:

  • come less than 4 times an hour
  • aren’t regular
  • don’t get painful or stronger
  • come and go depending on your position

Early Labor Signs

What are the first signs of early labor? Sometimes there are early and more subtle signs before labor begins:

  • Back pain/cramps
  • More Braxton Hicks
  • Being overly emotional
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Loose feeling joints
  • Weight loss
  • Sudden exhaustion
  • Nesting instinct kicks in
  • Pet starts acting “weird”

RELATED: 17 Non-Obvious Signs of Labor

early signs of labor

How Do You Feel 24 Hours Before Labor?

The answer to how you feel right before labor varies by woman and by pregnancy.

And, it may change for each pregnancy you have!

Symptoms in the hours/days before labor include:

  1. Loss of mucus plug
  2. Bloody show
  3. Weight loss
  4. Nesting/Extreme fatigue
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Back pain
  7. Contractions
  8. Ripened cervix
  9. Water breaking

I know that you want a definite answer as to what happens right before you go into labor- the truth is, there is no definite answer. You may have 1, 2 or all of the above symptoms.

Or, you might have NONE. Seriously, I had NO CLUE that my third baby was going to arrive on the day that she did. Not one single inkling, symptom or anything.

It was fine one minute, active contractions the next.

With my son, I lost my mucus plug in the evening, about 8 hours before my water breaking.

RELATED: Free Printable Birth Plan (+ why you want one)

What Time of Day Does Labor Usually Start?

Ever wondered if there’s been a study on when labor usually starts? Well, lucky for you-

there has!

This study was published in 2018 and some interesting answers… but you might not like them.

If you go into spontaneous labor and have then continue on to have a spontaneous birth (no medical interventions), you are most likely to give birth between midnight and 6am and probably on a weekday, not a weekend.

If you have an induced labor, the birth is more likely to occur around midnight from Tuesday to Saturday.

Elective C-Sections were found to mostly happen on weekday mornings.

When To Go To The Hospital For Labor

As a general rule, you should head to the hospital when your contractions are about 4 minutes apart, last 45-60 seconds and stay that way for an hour. However, if this isn’t your first baby, things may move more quickly.

If you’re at all unsure, contact your healthcare provider.

With my first baby, I went in WAY too early because my water broke but I didn’t go into active labor. I ended up being induced because I was Group B strep positive.

With my second baby, my water broke and my labor progressed extremely quickly- I think I stayed home for an hour from the first contraction till I left for the hospital.

With my third baby, my water didn’t break. I was in active labor from the very first contraction – there was no early labor phase for me.

I left for the hospital about 15-20 minutes after my first contraction and I’m SO happy I did because my baby was born less than 4 hours later.

I tell you this to show that not only is every woman different, so is every labor! What happened with your first or second baby may not happen with subsequent babies.

Am I In Labor? How Do You Know You’re In Labor?

Signs of labor include:

  • Strong and regular contractions
  • Your water breaking
  • Bloody mucus discharge (bloody show)
  • Loss of mucus plug
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Ripened cervix

Where are Contractions Felt?

True contractions can be felt at first in the lower back, kind of like a crampy ache. They wrap around the entire belly and everything goes hard.

False labor contractions start on the belly and will stop if you change position or drink some water.

Read more about where contractions are felt and how they feel.

signs of labor/signs of labor coming soon

Silent Labor Signs

Although “silent labor” or painless labor is rare, it CAN happen!

India Ward’s story is interesting. She says, “It was a Monday night and at 10:30pm I got a couple of tightenings. I had pregnancy insomnia so thought I’d stay up anyway and just monitor these tightenings to see what would happen. At 3:30am Tuesday I woke up my husband and said it’s time to go to the hospital.”

She continues, “With my first I had no warning, my waters broke and then I was 10cm and pushing before I even got to the hospital. So I was very anxious of having the same experience while also knowing that second labours usually happen quicker.”

She describes her true contractions as “only feeling tightenings, no pain.”

The best thing you can do to prepare in case you are a silent laborer is to know exactly what true and false contractions feel like. Timing them is helpful so you can establish a pattern as well.

Always, ALWAYS call your healthcare provider no matter what the time of day if you’re unsure- they WANT you to call!

What Do Early Contractions Feel Like?

Early contractions definitely feel different than later contractions! When you first go into labor the contractions are mild and may be irregular.

They feel like a tightening around your belly and back with some pain but you can still talk through them and they don’t bother you too much.

As your labor progresses, they will get stronger and more intense. You won’t be able to talk through them any more.

Every single labor is different for every woman. I had a long start to my labor with my first baby and experienced some of the “easier” contractions I described.

My other two labors were fast and furious and I honestly didn’t get many contractions I could talk through- they went from nothing to super intense very quickly!


When I was googling signs of labor, I was always looking for something that would definitively tell me it was happening. I was also desperately wishing for it to start, as I’m sure you are.

It’s SO HARD to wait the last few weeks! And while I wished for labor to start at the end of every pregnancy I’ve ever had-

Looking back, I wish I would have slowed down and tried to enjoy the last little while before my new one was Earth side.

If it’s your first pregnancy, slow down and really soak up the moments that you’re truly yourself and cherish the time you have left to do whatever you want.

It’s a subsequent pregnancy, enjoy your last moments with your other children before a new baby takes up a lot of your time. I know it’s hard, but try.

I’m wishing you so much luck and love on your journey. Wishing you a positive labor and delivery momma ❤

Looking for more helpful tips on labor and delivery?

10 Ways to Have an EASY Labor

Realistic Hospital Bag Checklist

Best Tips For A Natural Birth

How To Induce Labor

Super Weird Labor Signs {you haven’t heard before}

Best C-Section Hospital Bag Checklist

Your Top 10 Burning Questions About Labor and Delivery- Answered!

signs that labor is 24-48 hours away/signs of labor/signs of labor approaching
signs of labor/signs of labor coming soon



Tuesday 28th of December 2021

There is another kind of contraction that is exactly like real contractions. The only difference is it doesn’t progress labor. It happens with “irritable uterus”. I was having very painful contractions that started strongly in my back and wrapped around the front and came consistently for hours just minutes apart. I walked, I rested, I drank water, finally I went in to the ER. They diagnosed me with IU after checking my cervix and pronectin, conforming I wasn’t actually in labor. It’s not very common but it happens.

Also, I’m pregnant with baby #5 and I like to wait it out at home with contractions right up until I have the first contraction that really is painful and takes my breath away. I don’t live far from the hospital so I prefer it this way. With my first I went in earlier and ended up spending hours there instead of in my own home.


Tuesday 24th of August 2021

I've had all my babies between the hours of 4:30 pm and 9pm, and 2 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday, 1 on Thursday where Friday was a holiday, 1 on Monday, and 1 on Friday. All "spontaneous" labors and deliveries. 2 with zero meds. I've had strong painful labors, labors lasting 2.5 hours, labors lasting 26 hours, silent labors where contractions were a tightening until pushing stage, etc. My water broke before I went to the hospital with my last 2, but the previous 4 had 2 where they broke them for me and 2 where they broke as I was ready to push. One that they broke actually was during pushing stage as the bag was getting in the way of her coming out and I was frustrated by that, haha. It is incredible how different each birth has been for me!


Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Each time i went into labour (5kids) my labour time halved. My youngest daughter i went to the hospital and she was born 20 minutes later! Contractions began an hour before, so it was really quick.