Early Signs of Labor
What Are The Signs Of True Labor?

Signs of Childbirth

early signs and symptoms of labor

Early Signs of Labor

Contents

Passage of the Mucus Plug/Blood Show
Water Breaking
Contractions
Energy Burst - Nesting Instinct
Weight Loss
Baby Dropping or Lightening
Am I In Labor?


Giving Birth
For an overview, see:
Guide to Childbirth

What Are The Early Signs Of Labor?

Passage of the Mucus Plug/Blood Show

This is the thick plug, made from mucus which corks the cervical opening during pregnancy (image). This becomes dislodged as the cervix dilates and effacement begins. It can also appear as a stringy discharge. The passage of the plug may be noticed in the toilet bowel. The plug can appear pinkish and clear, or if it looks bloody, it is known as 'bloody show'. Passage of the plug is an indication that the body is preparing for childbirth, but it is not a reliable indication that the big day has arrived. Labor could be one or two days away, but it could be one or two weeks away. If the plug arrives with a continuous passage of bright red blood, contact your doctor immediately.

What If the Mucus Plug Does Not Pass?

Some women only pass the plug hours before labor. However, many who claim they did not pass it, may have just missed it. It could easily have passed and been flushed down the toilet without realizing it.

Water Breaking

Rupture of the amniotic membranes/sac surrounding the baby, is an imminent sign of labor. It can appear as a sudden gush or in a slow trickle. The fluid will not run dry until delivery and childbirth, continually replacing itself every few hours. When your water breaks, report it to your doctor straight away. Delivery needs to occur within 24 hours or there is an increased risk of infection. If labor does not start naturally, your clinician or midwife may recommend labor induction with a drug called pitocin or suggest other natural labor induction methods.

Contractions

Contractions start, and intensify rather than easing. They become progressively closer together and for longer. In most cases, the midwife will probably tell you to call when contractions have been 5 to 7 minutes apart and 30 seconds long for an hour. In subsequent pregnancies, you may be advised to call earlier, when the contractions are 7 to 10 minutes apart. If you are a first time mom, you may find birthing classes informative before childbirth, knowing what to expect will help you relax when the time comes.

Energy Burst - Nesting Instinct

Experiencing a burst of energy? Is it suddenly incredibly necessary to ensure that the fridge is stocked with food, the nursery is in order and the house is cleaned? This dramatic and often irrational behavior can be amusing for the rest of the family to observe. The sudden energy burst may be due to increased adrenaline circulating in the bloodstream in preparation for childbirth. Not all women experience this, and it is just as common to feel exhausted. See our prenatal care guidelines to looking after yourself in the weeks and months approaching childbirth.

Weight Loss

Instead of seeing the scales go up at your third trimester prenatal visit, it stays the same or goes down. This is quite common as the amniotic fluid starts to reduce in volume, and less water means less weight! Additionally, as labor approaches, diarrhea is quite common, which can also contribute towards a lowered weight.

Baby Dropping or Lightening

Dropping, also called lightening is when the baby descends into the pelvic cavity in preparation for birth (image). For most women with their first pregnancy, this takes place 2 to 4 weeks before delivery. In subsequent pregnancies, it usually does not happen until the stages of labor kick-in. In fact, there are many instances where expectant mothers go into labor without dropping at all. Signs that the baby has dropped include the appearance that your tummy seems lower. Also the baby's new position means less pressure on the uterus, so you can breathe more easily, and will suffer less from indigestion. On the other hand, you are more likely to experience pressure on the bladder and an increased need to urinate. There is no clear way of knowing if the baby has dropped, but your midwife will be able to tell you by examination.

Am I In Labor?

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between early signs of labor and false labor. If your pregnancy has progressed beyond 37 weeks, here are some of the signs to look out for:

Braxton Hicks Contractions: Many women experience irregular, sometimes uncomfortable contractions around their pregnancy due date. Sometimes the expectant mother will arrive at hospital only to find out the contractions are Braxton Hicks contractions, a common false labor sign. Real contractions tend to begin in the lower back and radiate towards the front of the abdomen. Braxton-Hicks in comparison tend to be only in the stomach. Also they tend to subside if you walk around. Read also about pregnancy cramps.

In true labor, contractions intensify, starting at 30 seconds and progressively becoming longer up to 60 seconds. They also gradually start appearing closer in time. In false labor, contractions vary in length and intensity.

In false labor, there is no blood show or mucus plug ejection. Also there is no amniotic rupture – i.e. your water does not break.

For women who have not quite completed their third trimester, do check our pregnancy symptoms guide for more common symptoms and side effects associated with being pregnant.
See also: How do I know if I'm in labor?

  Related Articles on EARLY SIGNS OF LABOR

For more preparing for delivery, see the following:

C-Section Delivery and C-Section Recovery
Home Birth / Is A Home Birth Safe?
Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)
Waterbirths: Pros and cons discussed.

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