Symptoms and Signs of Early Labor

A list of signs of labor and early symptoms.

Soon to be mothers need to know the clues that their bodies give when they are about to go into labor. There are many warning signs that you can become aware of before the due date. Knowing these early signs of labor will make you feel more prepared and ready for the experience.

In this article, we will share with you a list of 12 signs of labor. Starting with the most obvious and then the smaller signs that your body is gearing up for giving birth.

1. Contractions The most tell-tale signs of labor is contractions. These feel like a pain or pressure that starts in the back and moves to the front of your lower abdomen. These are usually last for around 30-40 seconds and give you a 5-30 minute rest between them. These get stronger and closer together in time the further along into labor you get.

2. Bloody Show: This is when a thick discharge comes from the vagina, which may be a brownish/reddish colour. This is a mixture of mucus and blood which is released as the cervix gets thinner and softer. It is the mucus plug that has been protecting the baby from the beginning of pregnancy being released, getting ready for labor.

3. Lightening: You may have a sensation or feeling of pressure in the lower cervix. This may feel as though the baby has dropped into a lower pelvic position. This is called lightening and is where you can feel the baby’s head. This is a classic symptom of labor as your body is preparing for the final stages.

4. Nesting: This is a natural biological urge which gives you a surge of energy. This may make you feel as though you want to cook, organise the home or clean suddenly. This is a natural ‘nesting’ instinct that the body gives when it is ready to go into labor. The body is programmed this way to prepare the mother for a new baby.

5. Braxton Hicks Contractions: These are irregular contractions which feel like a tightening of the abdomen. These are considered “false” as they happen in the later stages of pregnancy. They are referred to as “practise” contractions as they do not cause labor but happen during the run-up to this. Always consult your health care professional if you are concerned about these.

6. Waters Break: The waters can break before or during labor. This is the release of amniotic fluid when the sac has ruptured and is a classic sign of labor. It can feel like a large gush of liquid but may also be a small trickle. Be sure to inform your health care professional as soon as this happens.

7. Shivering: Some women feel involuntary trembling or shivering during the early onset of labor. Try to relax if you feel this, as it is a natural sign that you are getting ready to give birth.

8. Mood Swings: Mood swings are very common during pregnancy, but they may be more dramatic just before the onset of labor. This may be caused by hormonal changes that are taking place leading up to labor.

9. Toilet Urges: As the baby begins to go into position ready to travel down the birth canal, it’s head may press against the bowel or bladder. This gives you a sudden urge to use the bathroom. The body can also trigger the diarrhoea to empty itself to make room for the baby.

10. Good Night’s Sleep: Some mothers report having very long nights sleep just before labor begins. This may also be down to hormonal changes as the body reserves energy for the upcoming childbirth.

11. Preterm Labor: This is a condition where contractions begin between 20-37 weeks of pregnancy. If you experience this it may feel like mild menstrual cramps and pelvic area pain. You may also experience bleeding, discharge and can be caused by stress, anxiety, or infections. Call your health care professional immediately if you experience preterm labor, as sometimes drugs are administered to stop preterm labor and allow the baby to develop for a full-term delivery.

12. Cervix Dilation: You may feel a pressure or difference in the lower abdomen in the last few weeks of pregnancy. A doctor will determine that the cervix has dilated and been able to tell you roughly when you will give birth to the child.

As you can see there are many early signs of labor that you can be ready and aware of when pregnant. Having the knowledge and understanding that these are normal processes in the body can help you to have calm and less stressful labor.

If you experience these symptoms be sure to calmly contact your health care professional to assess the situation and follow the next steps. Keep your mind occupied during the later stages of pregnancy and the run-up to labor. This can help to relieve feelings of stress, restlessness or concern. Watch comedies, play board games and socialise in ways that make you feel happy. This helps to release endorphins to take the edge off during this stressful time.