Has labor started yet? Know the signs
Signs of labor start days to a week or more before baby is set to appear
Some signs of labor can be tough to discern
Call your doctor if you have any questions
You’ve waited nine months to meet your new little one, and now your baby is almost here. Unfortunately, as the big day gets closer, and your body prepares itself for birth, you are going to experience a lot of things. How do you know which things are simple pregnancy symptoms and which ones are signs of labor? Which one is the very first sign of labor? It can be tough to tell, but we’ve got the details.
Your baby drops
One of the early signs of labor is a change in your baby’s position as s/he moves down into your pelvis. In a lot of women, the shift in the baby’s position is accompanied by a visible change in how their belly looks, or in how they feel. Some women find they can breathe better because the baby has moved away from their lungs, or they have to go to the bathroom more because the baby is sitting on their bladder. Sure, the change is pretty inconvenient, but it is also an exciting sign.
Your body changes while preparing for the birth
Your body is getting ready for delivery by staring to loosen everything up. Think of it as the same kind of warmup work you’d do before any other type of physical activity. Your body knows that the time is getting close, so it is preparing.
As labor becomes imminent, you’ll start to feel back pain and cramping. Sure, you may have had Braxton hicks/practice contractions, but these are different and more intense. If these uncomfortable feelings start to even out and become more regular, you might want to time them. If they become regular, call your doctor’s office.
Another sign that you’re body is preparing for birth is that you’ve got diarrhea. Just like other parts of your body are loosening up, your rectum is too. Sure, it’s gross, but it is an indicator that things are happening.
You lose your mucous plug
Every pregnant woman has a mucous plug that provides a seal between their uterus and the outside world. You’ll need to lose this plug before you can begin labor. In some women, this loss is extremely noticeable. There can be a change in the color of their discharge, too, which is termed the “bloody show.” Both indicators are a sign that labor is coming soon, likely within a few days.
Your water breaks
If your water breaks, you’re either in labor, or you are going to go into labor at any time. However, the trickier part of having your water break is discerning how it feels. The actual experience isn’t like anything you’ve seen in the movies. There’s no splash of water next to your feet, and there’s no reason to panic the first moments after it occurs. Labor is happening, but it’s likely not happening in the next few minutes.
It can be surprisingly hard to know for sure if your water has broken. If you have any questions, call your doctor.
How does it feel? While some women feel a noticeable change as their membranes rupture, others don’t feel anything at all. Occasionally, it can even happen during sleep, and you’ll wake up realizing that something is different.
Generally, if you notice any regular fluid leaking that is between a gush or a trickle of fluid, call your doctor’s office. If they suspect your water has broken, they’ll ask you co come in to confirm.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
- How a doula can help you from pregnancy to motherhood | Parenting 101
Your best ally during pregnancy, labor, and the first weeks of parenting can be a doula.
- Tips to naturally produce more breastmilk | Parenting 101
Here are some ideas on how to easily and naturally boost your milk supply.