Signs of Labor

Early labor signs can be tricky to pinpoint since many symptoms vary from woman to woman.

Labor is the most anticipated event of pregnancy, and unfortunately even with advancements in the field of obstetrics, doctors are still unable to conclusively say when a woman will go into labor.

Signs of labor can begin several days to weeks before actual labor commences, while other times, women experience labor symptoms followed suddenly by labor itself.

Either way, almost all women experience some symptoms and signs of labor. This article will discuss all possible early labor signs. If you’re more interested in learning about the stages of labor, click here.


Contractions are usually the first signs of labor expectant mother’s face. These contractions are very similar to true labor contractions, however there are differences between the two, making it easy to tell them apart.

Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular, they do not increase in intensity, they don’t get closer together, and pressure and pain tends to stay in the front of the abdomen area.

True labor contractions however, are consistent and increase in intensity, duration and pain as time goes on. They start out far apart from each other and gradually get closer together.

Women also feel pain in their back and on the side of their abdomen, plus pressure is felt in the vagina area.

A Dilated Cervix

Dilation is the opening of the cervix to 10cm, and at 10cm delivery can begin. Women can not see the changes occurring to their cervix. Instead the cervix is monitored by the doctor during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Some women begin dilating weeks before labor begins, while others do not dilate until the onset of true labor. The cervix begins to soften, thin and open several days to weeks before labor, however dilation does not guarantee that labor will begin soon.

The Baby Dropping into The Pelvic Region

Some women don’t notice the baby dropping lower if they carried the baby low all pregnancy term, while other mom’s notice this change if they carried the baby high.

Pressure and heaviness begin to increase on your pelvis, which can be painful, annoying and uncomfortable.

Many women complain of using the restroom more frequently during this time, as ‘holding it’ seems impossible. Swelling in the legs and feet can be expected during this time too, which only adds to the pressure on your blood vessels.


Lightening can be one of the more pleasant early labor signs a woman experiences. As the baby moves downward into the pelvic region, it moves away from the chest and rib cage. The mother may feel relieved to be able to ‘finally breathe’ again.

Still, with good comes the bad. And as the lightening continues to relieve your respiratory system, it also increases discomfort and pressure in your lower area.

Pressure continues to build on the bladder, and rectum and pelvic floors, increasing the need to urinate and have a bowel movement.

Losing The Mucous Plug

Known as the “bloody show”, it’s when the mucous plug that has sealed the cervix closed during the whole pregnancy falls out.

The mucous plug falls out once the cervix opens wide enough. Discharge is usually present and may be clear, pink or slightly bloody. Labor can begin right after the mucous plus is lost, or it can take one to two weeks to begin.

Water Breaking

When a woman’s water breaks she usually feels a rush of fluid as the amniotic fluid pools in her vagina.

A steady leak should ensue after that. Many women don’t experience their water breaking while at home, and instead either have it broken by a doctor or it breaks after labor has begun.

Women who do experience their water breaking while at home or in a location of inconvenience, should take note of the color, appearance and odor of the fluid and call their doctor immediately.

The Nesting Instinct

The nesting instinct is also known to kick in during the end of the pregnancy. Nesting is likely due to hormones, as the need to ‘nest’ becomes more apparent as you get everything ready for the baby’s arrival.

Sudden boosts of energy can be experienced, as cleaning, organizing and decorating fills the down time.

It’s important that an expectant mother who is in the nesting mode relaxes and tries not do ‘over do it.’ Saving your energy for labor and delivery is extremely important down the road.

So do little things, but always make sure you get plenty of rest.

Has induction been discussed yet? Learn more about inducing labor here…

This page was last updated on 06/2017

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