10 Signs Labor is Approaching

It’s one of the questions that almost every expecting mom has had throughout her nine months of pregnancy: how will I know for sure that I’m in labor? If this is your first baby, you might wonder how it will feel, what you can expect from labor and whether it’s really happening or only a false alarm. Even for experienced moms you know that early signs of labor are sometimes vague and can be hard to pinpoint. So, is it possible to know for sure whether you’re in labor? Yes! There are telltale signs to watch for that tell you it’s almost time to meet your baby. Here are 10 signs that labor is approaching, and it’s about time to deliver!


Signs Labor is 24 to 48 Hours Away

The baby drops: One of the signs labor is approaching is when you feel the sensation of your baby dropping into your lower pelvic cavity. Without the baby pressing on your diaphragm, you may suddenly be able to breathe a little easier. The bad news is that with the baby dropping lower to get into position, you may still need to pee frequently as his head is now pushing on your bladder. Most moms complain about pelvic pain but at this stage of the game, it’s entirely normal. 

Braxton Hicks contractions: The days leading up to labor may include Braxton Hicks or “practice” contractions that feel like mild cramps. What’s actually happening is that your uterus is tightening and hardening to prepare for the baby’s birth.

Cramps and lower back pain: There are two different kinds of back pain associated with labor. When you’re not yet in labor but getting close, you’ll feel some cramping and mild back pain that seems to come and go. This is a sign that your muscles and joins are getting ready for delivery.

Diarrhea: To prepare the body for labor and delivery, there are several muscles that start relaxing in preparation and that includes your rectum. Another sign that labor is approaching is if you experience diarrhea in the days leading up to delivery. Keep pumping the fluids into your system and remember that it’s completely normal and temporary. You’re almost there, mama!

Weight gain switches to weight loss: As the amniotic fluid levels decrease and your potty breaks become more frequent, it’s entirely possible that you’ll lose a few pounds right before birth. The baby still gains the necessary weight that he needs, but it’s normal for you to stop gaining weight and lose pounds.

Exhaustion: The last few days of pregnancy can be a nightmare when it comes to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Your belly is the biggest it’s going to get and it can be possible to get comfortable. Not to mention the frequent potty breaks we already mentioned. Some moms get an urge to start nesting, which is another one of the normal signs labor is approaching.

Cervix dilates: The body is truly a miracle and how it moves through pregnancy and prepares for birth is astounding. Right before being in labor, your cervix will start to prepare for birth by dilating (opening) and thinning out. It’s all to get ready for the birth of your baby!


Signs It’s Actually Go Time and You’re in Labor

Bloody Show discharge: As your cervix begins to soften and dilate, it causes the mucus inside to dislodge. You may notice a blob or smear of discharge that looks brown (from old blood) or pink. Either way, if you’re seeing the “bloody show” labor could be hours (and sometimes days) away.

Regular, strong contractions: If you’re feeling a tight band of cramps that start in your back and work their way toward the front of your belly, these are signs of labor approaching. Contractions start as mild, irregular cramps and increase in both frequency and intensity as you move through the stages of labor.

Back labor pain: A common complaint for women is that they experience back pain throughout their pregnancy. But for one third of women, when you get closer to labor and delivery, this morphs into back labor, an intense and harsh pain and ache all down your back. As the baby moves down into the birth canal, it’s possible for his skull to hit your spine causing excruciating back pain. Rest assured, if you’re experiencing back labor, labor is right around the corner.

Water breaks: Contrary to popular belief, between 8-15% of all women experience their water breaking. This is due to the sac of amniotic fluid breaking, which causes a small leak of fluid to leak out. If you are one of the women who has your water break, expect labor to happen pretty soon after. Eighty percent of women go into labor within 12 hours after their water breaks.


If you’re still unsure about when to expect labor, contact your doctor or midwife. They know your history the most intimately and can give you insight into what clues to watch for. And in the meantime, rest up and get ready to meet your baby because when the moment finally arrives, it will change your life forever.


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What are some signs that labor is nearing?

The signs that labor is nearing can vary from woman to woman. The timing of when the physical signs occur can range with some happening around a month before labor and others weeks, days or hours before labor begins. Here are possible signs that labor is nearing:
• The baby drops into the pelvic area
• An increase in back pain
• Change in vaginal discharge
• Relaxed joints (important for the birth process)
• No longer gaining weight
• Braxton Hicks contractions
• Cramping
• Dilation of the cervix
• Diarrhea
• Fatigue
• Increased energy associated with the desire to nest
• Water breaks
• More consistent contractions that grow in intensity and frequency

Does pelvic pressure mean labor is coming?

Prior to birth, the baby drops lower into the pelvic area, which causes a feeling of pelvic pressure. Since the baby dropping is a sign of approaching labor, increased pelvic pressure can be a sign that labor is nearing, although may still be a few weeks or days prior to labor.

Does baby move more before labor?

A baby continues to move before labor, but not necessarily more frequently. It is important to be aware of the baby’s movement up until labor and notify your healthcare provider in movement stops.

How long can you be in pre-labor?

Pre-labor typically occurs around two to four weeks before the start of labor, therefore last around two to four weeks. However, some signs of pre-labor may occur only days before labor begins.

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