Symptoms Before Labor Begins
There are a few telltale symptoms that women can get before labor begins. Some are obvious and some you might miss! Having been through three pregnancies, all of them completely different, it’s hard to say what will happen for sure.
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Here we will go over all the common signs of labor approaching:
- Cervix dilates
- Baby drops
- Cramps or back pain
- Bloody show
- Loss of mucus plug
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or nesting
- Braxton Hicks
- Water breaks
- Vaginal discharge changes color or consistency
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Your Cervix Dilates
When your cervix dilates past 3 cm, you may be going into labor soon! Seeing your doctor should be happening regularly as you approach your due date and they will be checking to see if your cervix has dilated at all.
If your cervix isn’t dilating, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. With my 3rd baby, I saw my doctor on the morning before I went into labor.
She checked my cervix and laughed because it wasn’t even a cm dilated and told me “not to hold my breath” over the baby coming anytime soon.
I went into labor around 2 that afternoon 🙂
RELATED: Signs Labor is Only 24-48 Hours Away
If it’s your first baby, usually the baby will drop closer to your due date (around 2-4 weeks.)
If this is a subsequent pregnancy, your baby may not drop until labor begins.
Cramps or Back Pain
Your muscles and joints will start shifting for birth so this can be a sign of labor coming soon.
You will notice if have a bloody show because it’s, well, bloody. This may show up after wiping in the bathroom or in your underwear. It’s a very good sign labor is on the way!
Loss of Mucus Plug
The mucus plug is created at the moment of conception. It’s a plug made of mucus that stays on the end of your cervix to stop harmful bacteria or germs entering the cervix.
As your cervix dilates, you may lose your mucus plug.
This is really noticeable for some pregnancies and for some it’s not noticeable at all.
With my second pregnancy, I lost my mucus plug around 6pm and then my water broke around 2am that morning.
With my third pregnancy, I lost my mucus plug around 35 weeks and started freaking out because I was SURE I was going into early labor.
Luckily, if you lose your mucus plug early, your body will just regenerate it.
In the days leading up to labor, you might notice a weight drop. You may lose anywhere from 1-3 pounds of water weight.
Fatigue or Nesting
It can be confusing during those last few days before labor begins. 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 and moved an dresser and king size bed to a different room.
My water broke at 6am the next morning. Pay attention to energy levels!
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How do you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks or real contractions?
- Irregular and infrequent, lasting only 15-30 seconds.
- Subside if you change position.
- Consistently get stronger and more frequent.
- They don’t go away if you stand up or change position.
- Last about 30-70 seconds each.
RELATED: What Do Contractions FEEL Like?
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Your Water Breaks
Only 15% of women experience their amniotic sac rupturing 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.
Change in Vaginal Discharge
Once you get closer to labor, you might notice your vaginal discharge changing color or consistency.
Your body produces extra relaxin leading up to birth. Relaxin causes your muscles to relax to make for an easier birth.
This affects ALL your muscles, including your rectum muscle which can lead to diarrhea.
But, this is a good thing because it helps your body void all unnecessary contents before you give birth!
That means no pooping during labor and delivery 😉
It can still happen though. Try not to worry too much. 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!
Non Traditional Signs of Labor
- Feeling emotional
- A change in your pets behaviour
- Feeling off
- Labor dreams
- Flu symptoms
- Stomach troubles
- Mood swings
- Sudden weightloss
- Weird cravings
- Feeling cold before labor
RELATED: How To Have A Faster Labor
Do you get emotional before birth?
Yes, that can be a sign that your hormone levels are changing as you prepare to give birth.
You Pet Starts Acting Weird
As you approach labor, the scent of your body may change. This can cause pets to pick up on that and act differently.
Nesting is always something I kind of look forward to. It’s the last burst of energy and a pretty good sign that baby is coming.
Also very helpful with getting you to finish all those last minute tasks- just make sure you don’t go too hard deep cleaning behind the fridge!
Just Feeling “Off”
In the evening before my water broke with my son, we went to the grocery store because I really wanted strawberry pie, which was weird for me. (the strawberry pie was weird, not the junk food lol)
We ended up getting a bunch of junk food and had a really fun evening before we went from a family of 3 to 4.
Looking back, I kind of knew that the baby was coming. I just knew.
Vivid dreams about going into labor can be a sign that it really is right around the corner. This can be your minds way of helping you to mentally prepare for the big day.
Diarrhea and nausea can be a sign of impending labor but if you start vomiting, contact your healthcare provider.
Crampy, gassy and the need to void your bowels are all signs of pregnancy coming to an end!
Mood swings are a very normal symptom of labor approaching. You might find yourself laughing, crying, angry- all within the space of 5 minutes. Get ready for baby!
Sudden Weight Loss
Losing 1-3lbs of water weight is a fairly common sign that labor is going to start within the next few days or hours.
You’ve probably had some weird cravings your whole pregnancy but if you have anything SUPER weird in the last days leading up to labor, that probably means that baby will make their debut soon.
Feeling Cold Before Labor
Feeling cold and/or shivering before, during or after labor is your body’s way of relieving tension. I certainly remember shivering uncontrollably after the birth of my first baby!
With my third baby, I felt cold and got the shivers right before my water broke. I was already in the hospital at that point because contractions came first but I really remember those feelings.
The world got really clear and my sense of smell heightened as well in the few moments before my water broke.
RELATED: How to Induce Labor (FAST!)
Weird Things that Can Happen Before Labor
- Baby moves a lot
- Loss of gain of appetite
- You just know
- Chills and feeling cold
- Lower back pain
- Gas and/or bowel movement
You Break Out
A surge of androgens can happen at the end of pregnancy. This surge helps ripen your cervix but it can also, unfortunately, cause one last break out.
Baby Starts Moving A Lot
Usually a good sign of labor coming is that baby will move less than what they have been doing.
This isn’t because they’re not moving at all, it’s because the patterns change. Instead of kicking they will start squirming and shuffling which feels like less movement.
RELATED: The Ultimate 3rd Trimester Checklist
Extreme fatigue is an early sign of labor. Being tired at the end of pregnancy is normal, but this type of fatigue is quite a bit different.
It’s a heavy feeling. Listen to your body and rest as needed!
Noticeable Loss or Gain of Appetite
Have you been eating like crazy only to just feel like you’re not hungry AT ALL?
Or, have you been uninterested in food and now suddenly RAVENOUS?
Perhaps your body needs to clear itself out or perhaps you need energy for the impending birth!
You Just “Know”
Just knowing is not scientific at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true!
Sometimes, you just KNOW.
Chills and Feeling Cold
If you suddenly have chills and get cold at the end of pregnancy, you may be going into labor soon.
The change in body temperature can be a sign of labor hormones.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain, an achy or crampy feeling is generally a good indication that labor is near. This is because your muscles and joints are stretching in preparation for childbirth.
Gas and/or Bowel Movement
Becoming gassy and having a BM can be a good sign of labor on its way, especially at the very end of pregnancy.
How Long Does Early Labor Last?
You can expect early labor to last anywhere from 8-12 hours, according to The American Pregnancy Association.
The Most Interesting Signs of Labor
Most of the signs of impending labor are the same but some are more interesting and strange than others! These include:
- Feeling weird
- Feeling “off”
- Mood swings
- Weird dreams
- Sudden weight loss
- Having a break out
- Cold/flu symptoms
- Being gassy
What Are Different Types of Discharge Before Labor?
There are different types of discharge all throughout pregnancy and leading up to labor. One type to keep your eyes open for will be pink, brown or slightly bloody.
This is called the bloody show and happens after you lose your mucus plug. The mucus plug is a thick, gel-like substance that protects your cervix during pregnancy.
When you lose it, that means your body is getting ready to go into labor. The loss of the mucus plug is usually followed by the bloody show.
I personally experienced thicker, white discharge in the days leading up to labor and the loss of my mucus plug with both my first and second babies.
With my third, I didn’t notice much and went into labor quite suddenly right on the due date. So, keep your eyes open for different types of discharge but don’t sweat it if you miss them.
Some women don’t notice any of this!