If this is your first baby you may be curious to know if there are any signs or symptoms that your body prompts you with right before you go into labor. On the other hand, it may be a subsequent pregnancy for you although you may have had little signs of labor with your firstborn child. While many expectant mothers discuss ‘pre’ labor signs that they have experienced, it is important to know that every pregnancy is different and while some may experience many warning signs, the first signs of labor for others are contractions or their water breaking.
Contractions are the most common sign of labor for expectant mothers.
When Will I Go into Labor?
When you first have an ultrasound generally at 6-8 weeks pregnant, you will be given an estimated due date. This is the approximate day you will go into labor although generally a baby will not be born on their due date. Some women ovulate late, some ovulate early so this can put the timing off. Other babies just come early for no reason, others stay put until the mother is 41 weeks pregnant. A baby is considered full-term from 37 weeks and can arrive as late as 42 weeks. After 42 weeks, doctors look at intervention.
While it is impossible for anyone, even a trained practitioner to predict the date or time that your labor will commence, there are a number of telltale signs that it could be right around the corner. For some women, the signs are prominent, while other women have little to no warning signs at all.
Wondering how ‘true’ your due date will be? Statistics show that:
- 4-5% of babies are born on their due date
- 6% of babies were born after 42 weeks
- 12% of babies came earlier than 37 weeks
- 82% arrived within the full-term period of 37 to 41 weeks
10 Signs that Your Baby May be on Their Way
1) Frequent Bowel Movements (Loose Bowels/Diahorrea)
Many women experience frequent bowel movements or diarrhea in the days or weeks leading up to their labor. The muscles in your body relax in preparation to give birth and your bowel muscles are no exception. It is important if you are suffering from diarrhea to keep yourself hydrated by drinking additional water and book in to see a doctor if diarrhea persists.
The days leading up to labor I had diarreah and cramps along with low back pain. Some nausea and vomitting also.
2) A Constant Urge to Urinate
As the baby grows, he or she puts extra pressure on your bladder which makes for extra bathroom trips for the mom-to-be. While constant bathroom trips become the norm for expectant mothers who are only weeks off having their baby if there is any stinging or pain when urinating, it is important to see a doctor.
The day I went into labor I had to go to the bathroom every hour on the hour. I thought labor may have been close but I didn’t realise I would be meeting my little one that night.
3) The Baby “Drops” (Lightening)
In the weeks leading up to a women’s due date, especially for first-time moms, an obvious shift in the babies position can be noted. As the baby descends into the mother’s pelvis, from the outside it may appear as if the baby has ‘dropped’. While not all babies descend head down prior to labor commencing, it is a common sign labor is approaching in the next two or so weeks.
The week before I gave birth to my son, it looked as if he was alot lower than he had ever been before.
4) Dull Lower Back Pain
As your muscles stretch in preparation for labor, you may have a dull ache in your lower back. Applying a heat pack to the lower part of your back can ease this pain. If the pain intensifies and is coming and going at regular intervals, you may actually be contracting.
With my first child I woke up at 6am with what felt like heavy period pains and a bad backache. I couldnt sleep through them as they kept getting stronger. 3 hours after that and after a really intense contraction my waters broke.
5) Braxton Hick Contractions
While Braxton hick contractions are ‘false labor’ many women only experience these in the weeks leading up to the birth of their child. If you are unsure whether you are having Braxton hick contractions or the ‘real deal’ labor contractions, Braxton hicks do not intensify over time whereas labor contractions will.
I had Braxton Hick contractions at night whenever I would lay down for the week leading up to the birth. Every night I would have to get up and get out of bed and pace the hallway to make them stop.
6) Feel Extra Tired
It is common to feel extra tired in the days leading up to labor. This is your bodies way of telling you to rest before the big day. While you may want to do a thousand things to get the nursery in order, especially if you have the nesting instinct, it is important to also listen to your body. Take extra naps where possible in the last couple of weeks of your pregnancy.
I had no symptoms at all other than being just tired. Then I started leaking fluid and went into the hospital. I had my baby 12 hrs later.
7) Nesting and the Urge to Clean
Some women find an urge to nest and clean the entire house not long before their labor begins. Many mothers overdo the cleaning which can even bring on labor so it is important to make sure you take it easy and don’t take on too many large cleaning tasks in the last weeks of pregnancy.
With my first child I nested at work even and then I went to bed early super uncomfortable and I woke up in middle of night and my waters broke.
8) Loss of Mucus Plug (Increased Vaginal Discharge)
The loss of your mucus plug, often known as the ‘show’ is one of the more noticeable pre-labor signs. You may see your show when wiping after using the toilet in the last weeks of your pregnancy. The mucus plugin is held in place by the cervix and is there as an added form of protection. While losing your mucus plug can mean labor is near, many women lose it a week or so before they experience any contractions. It generally happens less than 2 weeks before labor begins, so if you think you’ve sighted your ‘show’ make sure you finalize anything you need to do before your baby arrives (take a read of our pre-baby bucket list here).
What Does The Mucus Plug Look Like?
You may be wondering now what the ‘show’ or mucus plug looks like. Many refer to it as the mucus plug because it does look somewhat like a large, string of mucus. While the mucus plug is often white or creamy in color, a ‘bloody show’ is blood-streaked and this generally means labor is just hours away.
With my first I had lost my mucus plug on the Thursday afternoon. That Friday night we went to visit a family member and while eating dinner my waters broke.
9) Regular Contractions
Regular contractions are generally the start of labor for many expectant moms. Others experience the rupture of the amniotic sac first. If you begin having contractions, either in your back or front make sure you time the period between your last one finishing and the next starting. If they come at regular intervals and the intensity worsens over time it is safe to say you are in labor. You’ll want to call your close contacts and have someone drive you up to the hospital.
I got mild contractions that started 2 days before I had my daughter and they gradually became stronger. I thought they might be braxton hicks at first but they became strong enough for me to realise that they were the real thing.
10) Your Water Breaks (Rupture of Amniotic Sac)
Before feeling any contractions, sometimes a mother’s water will break. While it won’t be as dramatic as it is depicted in movies, the rupture of the amniotic sac is definitely hard for a mother to miss. It is important to put a pad on straight away and take note of the water ‘color’. If your amniotic sac ruptures, ensure you call the birthing suite within a timely manner to find out what is next.
I had no idea anything was going to happen until my waters broke.
Other Signs Mothers Have Had When Labor is Nearing
While the ten signs and symptoms above often indicate labor is just around the corner or is in the early stages, some moms have noted the following signs right before their labor has begun:
- Having a gut feeling
- Attached pets
- A change in energy levels
- Being overly emotional
- Halt in weight gain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Late food cravings
When Should I Call the Birthing Unit?
If you have doubts it is always best to call the birthing unit who will be able to transfer you to a trained midwife. If you experience any of the following, make sure to call your midwife in a timely manner:
- You notice blood when wiping or blood-streaked vaginal discharge
- You experience double vision accompanied by a headache and swelling
- Your waters break, especially if they are green, brown or yellow in color
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