So, if you’re anything like me, you’re only 35 weeks and already googling ‘SIGNS OF APPROACHING LABOR.’
Yeah, I’m kinda ridiculous. It’s just an obsessive trait that I can’t seem to ignore. I’m also the one taking pregnancy tests at 8 DPO and googling pregnancy symptoms 5 minutes after we’ve done the deed.
So, I GET IT!
You want to know, when is labor gonna start, dammit?!
Luckily there are some signs that will tell you for sure that labor is on it’s way!
If you haven’t taken a prenatal class yet- there is STILL time!
Hilary is offering an free online prenatal class. She has been an OB nurse since 2001 and is funny, down to Earth and will completely put your mind at ease about giving birth- natural or not. Check out her prenatal class here.
SIGNS OF LABOR: 1-4 WEEKS UP TO RIGHT BEFORE
I know, that sucks right! I hated reading that certain signs could be a month beforehand right up until hours before. The truth is, every pregnancy and every woman is different!
So what happened for me, may not happen for you.
1. YOUR BABY DROPS
This is something that happens earlier for first time moms, usually a few weeks before labor begins. If this is a subsequent pregnancy, this may not happen until you are truly in labor.
With my 3rd pregnancy, she dropped very low at 35 weeks. I also lost my mucus plug and I was CONVINCED I was going to have an early baby. After doing a lot of research, it became clear that you can actually lose your mucus plug more than once, your body will just regenerate it if it comes out too early.
I’m telling you this because nothing is ever cut and dried when it comes to pregnancy!
2. YOUR CERVIX DILATES
You’ll get to find out just how much you’ve dilated (if at all) at these super fun doctor’s appointments leading up to your due date, yay!
They will do an exam to see how much you’re progressing by physically checking you.
Here’s some encouragement for you if you’re at the end and wishing labor to start-
With my 3rd baby, I went in for a checkup and membrane strip on the morning of her due date. My doctor checked me and stripped my membranes and said “you’re about 1 cm dilated, don’t hold your breath over the baby coming any time soon!”
So I didn’t, and went about my day. I went into labor at 2:30 that same afternoon. Had my baby at 6:16!
You NEVER know with each pregnancy!
3. YOU FEEL CRAMPY AND HAVE INCREASED BACK PAIN
This is because your body is preparing for birth. The muscles and joints are stretching and preparing for your baby to make their debut!
4. YOUR JOINTS MAY FEEL LOOSER
It really is such a bizarre feeling to feel your joints getting looser but it’s only from the extra relaxin your body pumps out in preparation for labor.
5. YOU MAY GET DIARRHEA
This is a totally normal if somewhat shitty (yep, I just went there) labor symptom that can happen in the weeks or days or hours leading up to labor.
It’s not fun but it’s a really good sign that labor is on the way. I haven’t gotten it with all 3 pregnancies but whenever I did I was honestly kind of relieved because it clears out your system which leaves less of a chance of pooping during birth!
If you’re worried about that- don’t be. It’s hard not to stress leading up to giving birth but once you are in it you won’t even notice if it happens and you really won’t give a shit ?
6. YOU FEEL SUPER TIRED OR ENERGIZED AND WANT TO NEST
Have you moved a king size bed, an armoire and a dresser to a new room after deep cleaning that weird cupboard in the corner of the kitchen? Then you might be going into labor soon!
And on the other hand, if you fell asleep on the floor while your other kids were playing around you then you might be going into labor soon!
It can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.
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7. LOSS OF MUCUS PLUG AND ‘BLOODY SHOW’
Every time I read about this I was like ewwwww but I know you are a woman possessed right now and you don’t care how gross it is- if it pertains to labor, you wanna KNOW. So here goes:
The mucus plug is something that starts being created pretty much the moment of conception. It’s literally a plug made of mucous on the end of your cervix that stops bacteria from entering.
After you lose your mucus plug, there may be slight bleeding because of burst blood vessels and this is called the ‘bloody show’ although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
As mentioned earlier, I did lose my mucus plug at 35 weeks with my 3rd baby. It was scary because she also dropped and I was convinced I was going into preterm labor. While this can happen sometimes, you can also lose a mucus plug and have it regenerate.
With my second baby, I lost my mucus plug in the early evening and my water broke around 2am. It all depends on so many factors.
So the loss of the mucus plug or having a bloody show can happen weeks, days or hours before you go into labor.
RELATED: Losing Your Mucus Plug
SIGNS OF LABOR: 24-48 HOURS BEFOREHAND
8. THERE IS A CHANGE IN VAGINAL DISCHARGE OR YOU LOSE YOUR MUCUS PLUG
In the days and hours leading up to labor, you may notice an increase in clear, pink or slightly bloody vaginal discharge.
And again, you may lose your mucus plug! Some women don’t even notice when they lose this though because it can go straight into the toilet or come out in small pieces. If it does come out it one piece though, you will usually see it after you wipe on the toilet paper. It kind of resembles a giant glob of snot that can be tinged brown, pink or red.
RELATED: Signs Labor Is 24-48 Hours Away
9. YOU FEEL STRONGER CONTRACTIONS FREQUENTLY
You’ll know they are just Braxton Hicks if:
- You stand up, walk around and they go away
- They go away if you change positions
- They don’t progress or fall into a regular pattern
This is a way of your body practicing right up until the big day. Braxton Hicks are usually not painful, just uncomfortable. If it’s your first labor, don’t be scared about calling to check!
I went in for a false alarm with my SECOND baby because I was having Braxton Hicks that were definitely not painful but they were coming at exactly 5 minutes apart for over 2 hours! So even if you think you know what’s up- pregnancy and labor can be tricky and surprise you.
RELATED: How To Have A Faster Labor
10. SLIGHT WEIGHT LOSS
You may lose as many as 1-3 pounds in water weight in the days/hours leading up to labor. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve been avoiding the scale like the plague and would have no idea!
11. DULL BACK PAIN THAT COMES AND GOES
This was definitely a thing for me in my last two pregnancies. The back pain in the few days leading up to labor would come and go and when it start I knew that labor was approaching!
RELATED: Epidurals- Should You Get One?
SIGNS OF LABOR: OMG YOU’RE GOING INTO LABOR!!
12. YOU START HAVING REGULAR CONTRACTIONS
These are not Braxton Hicks, they’re the real deal honey! You’ll know because they will start to become painful, regular and strong.
They will start with regular intervals (ie: 15 min apart) and steadily progress closer together (10, then 5) and get stronger and more painful.
13. YOUR WATER BREAKS
Every woman is completely different, every pregnancy is completely different. With my first two pregnancies, my water broke, then contractions started and it was game on. With my 3rd baby, it started with regular, intense contractions and my water broke in the hospital.
A friend of mine was telling me her birth story and she said she was in the pushing phase of labor but felt something weird. She was actually pushing out the amniotic sack because it hadn’t broken!
So if your water breaks, you are FOR SURE going into labor but it might not be the first sign.
IS IT 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
When I was googling signs of labor, I was always looking for something that would definitively tell me I was about to go into labor. I was also desperately wishing for it to start, as I’m sure you are.
I know it’s easy for someone to say ‘slow down, enjoy the last little bit of pregnancy while you still can’ but it’s so hard to take that advice.
Three pregnancies and babies later- I still haven’t figured out how to do that. By the end you’re just DONE and want that baby out!
Labor will start when your baby is good and ready. And really, you don’t want it to start before that anyway. Every baby is different, every woman is different.
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