first signs of labor approaching

If you are getting closer to your due date. You may be getting anxious about when you will go into labor and what to expect. 

You may already have some early labor signs going on such as Braxton hicks, lower back pain or maybe even some nausea. As you continue to approach your due date you may start to notice more symptoms or the symptoms you have currently become more intense. 

The signs of labor are different for every expecting mom. But this list will help you recognize the signs of labor and give you a general idea of what to keep watch for as you get closer to your due date week by week. 

IN THIS POST

Early Signs Of Labor

When you are only a few weeks out from the big day. Most expecting moms are anxiously and impatiently waiting for the big day.

You have been dealing with all sorts of unpleasant symptoms and discomfort for 9 months. In the final weeks, you may feel like giving your baby an eviction notice to leave the womb! You have been dealing with all sorts of unpleasant symptoms and discomfort for 9 months.

Momma wants to meet her little one, and be able to sleep on other areas of her body beside her sides. Am I right!?

Without further ado…Here is a list of early signs of labor to may start to have as you approach your due date.

1. The Baby Drops

Typically 2-4 weeks before you go into labor your baby will “drop” into your pelvis. Another term is “lightening” which is when your baby “drops” into the birthing position with their head down and low.

When this happens you may notices that you are waddling more. Or that you are needing to go to the bathroom more frequently since your baby is on your batter more. But at least the good news is that you may be able to breathe better since your little one is taking off some pressure from your ribcage.

Don’t stress too much if your baby is still sitting high. Some babies like to stay put and stay high until the big day!

2. Changes To Your Cervix

So much is happening downstairs as your body starts preparing to give birth. You will most likely not feel anything happening, but your doctor or midwife will probably do an internal exam to see how things are moving along.

They will check to see how far dilated you are (which means the opening of your cervix, which is measured in meters) and effacement (which means the thinning of your cervix, which is measured in percentages)

Here is a great video demonstration that I found super helpful when I was preparing to give birth to my first baby.

Before you can start pushing your cervix needs to be 10cm dilated and 100% effaced. Pushing before your cervix has completely opened. It could result in some tearing or intervention of some kind.

For some expecting moms, the dilation process may begin a few weeks before they give birth. While for other expecting moms, their cervix may not dilate or efface until they go into labor. If your cervix has not dilated or effaced don’t be to discouraged since that may all happen the day of!

3. Weight Loss

After all those weeks and months of gaining weight. Many women tend to lose two to three pounds before going into labor. Also, some women find that they stop gaining weight.

If you are a few weeks out from your due date and notice you have lost a few pounds or you aren’t gaining any more weight. That’s a good sign that you are getting close to going into labor!

4. Bursts Of Energy Aka “Nesting”

You have probably heard of the term “nesting” which means you feel the urge to clean, organize and prepare your home for your new baby. It may feel like you have a spurt of energy to get everything done.

Nesting is one of the less-known early labor signs. Some women feel like disinfecting the whole house from top to bottom, throwing out perfectly good sheets, or even getting the carpets cleaned. You could feel this “nesting” urge months or even a few weeks before its go time.

5. Baby’s Activity

A few days or even a week or so before going into labor. You may notice that your baby’s activity slightly decreases. They are doing their own “calm before the storm”.

Make sure you are still feeling your baby move several times every hour. If you feel like you are not feeling your baby move much you can try these few tricks.

  • Drink cold water
  • Change your position
  • Lay down on your side
  • Gently push on your tummy with two fingers and create a pulsing action. If you don’t feel your baby kick. Try gently pushing on another area of your tummy until you feel your baby move.

Make sure you are still counting your baby’s movements. Use a kick counter to count your baby’s movements if you are not sure if they have been moving much. Keep in mind that another reason you may not feel them move around much is that they are simply out of space!

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that you time how long it takes to feel 10 kicks, jabs, flutters, even rolls really any movements. You should ideally feel 10 movements within 2 hours. If you are not feeling movement at all or it takes longer than 2 hours to feel 10 movements. Contact your doctor or midwife immediately!

6. Change in Vaginal Discharge Color and Consistency

You may start to notice an increase in vaginal discharge color and consistency. In the last few days, before you go into labor, you might see an increased amount of this thickened pinkish looking discharged called “bloody show” which is a good indicator that labor is closer than ever! But if you are not having contractions or dilation you may still be a few days away.

7. Shivering

If you find yourself shivering even when you are not cold. It’s your body’s way of relieving tension. This can happen during early labor, during labor and even after birth. And it usually only lasts a few minutes.

With both of my babies, I shivered right after giving birth and for me, it usually lasted 20 minutes or so and then it went away.

When I went into labor with my second baby. I also shivered, and it would come and go. So if you find yourself shivering that could be a sign that labor is getting closer!

8. Low Back Pain

early labor

The weight of your baby can put a lot of strain on your back. Once your baby drops you may notice that your lower back pain increases. You may also experience pelvic pain as well since your joints start to loosen and the weight of your baby puts added pressure on your pelvic.

One way to help relieve some back pain is to get a pregnancy support belt. This helps gives extra support to your lower back and helps take some weight off your pelvis.

5 Exercises For Back Pain During Pregnancy

9. Braxton Hick Contractions

If you are expecting your first baby you may think you are in labor when it’s really just a false alarm. As you approach your due date you may be feeling a tightening sensation that doesn’t last very long and comes and goes. If you than you are experiencing “false alarm” contractions aka Braxton Hicks which can make them quite confusing early signs of labor.

One thing to remember about Braxton Hicks contractions. Is that they do not increase in duration and strength. If you are in real labor your contractions will get closers together more intense. By changing your position will often relive the Braxton Hick contraction.

If you are wondering if you are experiencing true or false labor. Use this graph below.

early labor

10. Lose The Mucus Plug

You can lose your mucus plug weeks, days, or hours before going into labor. The mucus plug seals your uterus off and protects from any bacteria. It can come out all in one piece or in little pieces. It looks similar to mucus that is in your nose. You may not even notice you lost it at all. 

Another common term for mucus plug is called “bloody show” this is because of the pinkish-red color that it has to it. If you do see bright red blood it’d be best to call your doctor.

Your mucus plug may not fall out all at once. It came come out little bits and pieces at a time. With my first pregnancy, I lost my mucus plug slowly for 3 weeks before going into labor. With my second pregnancy, I lost it a week before going into labor.

11. Nausea Returns 

early labor

Another one of the first signs of labor approaching is nausea. You would think that you would only feel nauseous in the first trimester. But that may not be the case. One of the early signs of labor is nausea. I know some women who throw up before going into labor. If you are feeling nauseous make sure you are still drinking plenty of liquids. You don’t want to be dehydrated during labor.

12. Diarrhea 

Several days before you give birth your muscles in your uterus start to relax which means other muscles (like your rectum) are as well. Naturally, your body will empty as a way to make room for your baby.

If you get an upset stomach, vomit or get diarrhea it could be a sign of early labor. If it gets too intense make sure to call your doctor or the hospital.

13. You May Feel Really Tired 

During the last few weeks and days, before you give birth, your body is going through a lot of preparations. You may feel extremely tired that is why it is important to get a lot of rest. That way your body will have the energy it needs for the big day!

Signs That Labor May Start Soon

> Increase in discharge (bloody show)

> Frequent bowel movements

> Feelings of restlessness

> Difficulty sleeping (more than you have had already)

> Increase backaches and pain

> Braxton Hicks increase and are starting to become more frequent throughout the day

> Feeling cramps like you are about to start your period

Signs You Are In Labor

> Contractions Increase and are consistent

> Your Water Breaks

> You can no longer walk or talk during contractions

> Cramps in your legs

> Nausea/vomiting

> Diarrhea

> You feel pain in your lower back that comes when you get contractions

> Time your contractions and follow the 511 Rule: contractions are five minutes apart last one minute long for at least one hour

> Contractions become stronger and more intense

If you are still unsure if you are having true or false labor check out the guide below:

early labor

When To Contact Your Doctor Or Midwife?

Every expecting mother’s situation is different. When in doubt contact your doctor or midwife. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are positive that you are in labor give your doctor or midwife a call and let them know what you are experiencing.

If you are expecting your first ods are that when you do go into labor your baby won’t be popping out anytime soon. Just make sure to have your hospital bags packed, stock up on diapers (newborns go through a ton of diapers), have your postpartum kit ready for when you get home, and get your grocery shopping done so that you won’t need to get food after coming home.

Here are some other ideas on when you should check in with your doctor or midwife follow these tips below:

  • When using your contraction timer and your contractions are lasting 4-5 minutes, they are about 1 minute long and they have been going on for an hour.
  • If you have any significant amount of blood ( light bleeding like spotting is normal)
  • If you have any concerns for you and your baby
  • You feel that your baby’s movement has decreased
  • You have a very bad headache

When Will I Go Into Labor?

If you are asking yourself this question you are not alone. Every expecting mother wonder when they are going to go into labor. Or if they may go into labor early.

If you are expecting your first baby. There is a 15 to 16 percent chance of your baby being born late or right on time. If you have had more than 1 baby you’re looking at 9 or 10 percent chance for your baby being born late.

There may be other reasons why you may have your baby earlier such as being induced for medical reasons, scheduled c-section or your body says its go time. For both of my babies, they were late. My first was 3 days late and my second was a day late.

Due dates are usually set to 40 weeks but you may not hit 40 weeks exactly. Your due date may not be accurate since it is just an estimate. Due dates could be off as much as two weeks! You could go into labor anywhere from 32 to 42 weeks.

Just make sure to keep an eye out for the signs of labor and have your birth plan ready.

How To Write A Birth Plan

If you due date and come and gone it is easy to feel anxious. Before you try any home remedies make sure to call your healthcare provider first to make sure there will be no harm done to you or your baby.

3 Facts About Childbirth

1. Less than 5% of babies are born on the day they are due, 50% are born at least a week within their due dates and 90% born within 2 weeks of their due dates.

2. It is common for labor to start and stop once or twice before becoming strong enough to complete the birth.

3. Doulas are so amazing! Women with a doula to support them through childbirth are 28% less likely to need to give birth via C-section. A doula is a woman who, while not a medical professional, is trained to give emotional support to a woman before and during childbirth.

What Do I Need to Do When I am In Early Labor?

If you are already experiencing some early labor symptoms. Don’t rush to the hospital quite yet. Labor can take a long time to become active labor.

There are three stages of labor and they are:

  • Early Labor Phase –The time of the onset of labor until the cervix is dilated to 3 cm.
  • Active Labor Phase – Continues from 3 cm. until the cervix is dilated to 7 cm.
  • Transition Phase – Continues from 7 cm. until the cervix is fully dilated to 10 cm.

Your doctor or midwife will give you guidance to follow in your last final weeks on when to give them a call based on your symptoms and individual situation.

Weeks or days before you go into labor it is normal to feel anxious. When you actually go into labor it may catch you off guard even if you have been having early labor symptoms for days or weeks now.

When you feel like you are possibly in labor. Arrange to have a friend, partner or loved one with you to record your contractions, keep track of other labor symptoms, to help keep you company as well as to take you to the hospital when it is the time!

During early labor, you can try to ease your discomfort by:

  • Try getting up and walk around
  • Use your breathing and relaxing techniques that you learned during your birthing class.

Are Birthing Classes Worth It?

  • Change your position
  • Try taking a hot bath or shower
  • Sit or lean on a birthing ball
  • Try using a TENS Unit to help with back labor

If your contractions are becoming stronger and more frequent give your doctor or midwife a call either day or night. They are the best people to contact if you have any questions!

What Should I Bring to the Hospital?

When you are around 33 to 36 weeks its time to starting thinking about what to pack in your hospital bag, as well as to pack it and have it ready! During the last few weeks, you could go into labor at any time and the last thing you want to do is pack your bag when you are in labor.

When you are packing your bags you don’t need to pack your entire house. Many women like to comfort items such as.

  • A contraction timer downloaded and ready to start timing with its go time.
  • A playlist created on your phone that you want to use during labor to help relax you.
  • Your own pillow since the hospital pillows is not that comfortable.
  • Slippers or other nonslip socks (hospital floors are slippery)
  • Lotions or oils you would like to use for massage
  • Birthing ball to sit or lay on
  • Comfy clothes for mom and baby to go home in

For more ideas and a checklist on what to pack for mom, baby and partner’s hospital bag. You can check out this post here.

Now What?

So now that you know early labor symptoms, signs that labor may start in a few days, plus a plethora of other information that will help you during your final weeks. During this time it is important that you relax and don’t overwork your body.

Your body is going to go through a lot during labor. So sit back, kick your feet up and turn on your favorite Netflix show. Your baby will arrive soon!

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Kara is the founder of the Dollar Mommy Club and a full-momma and who loves every minute of it. Ever since she was a little girl (around two years old actually) she has wanted a baby of her own. She even asked her mom for “a crying and pooping baby doll” for Christmas when she was just 6 years old. Certain events took place to where Kara was diagnosed with Endometriosis, and doctors told her that having her own children might be impossible. She spent years trying to figure out her health by trying everything under the sun that you can think of. It wasn’t until a few years after she was married that both she and her husband figured it out, and they were blessed with their first baby girl! When Kara isn’t managing the Dollar Mommy Club and it’s wonderful members and contributors, she enjoys spending time with family, binge-watching The Office on Netflix, and creating art.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Kara, Nice to meet you:) Wishing your incoming child all the best for your happy family. I’m a mother with a pregnancy blogger. The very important topic discussed here! The pregnant woman has a detailed discussion of what to do when to work, what to do or not to do around the due date. I was really looking forward to this kind of advice. I am glad:) Happy 2020!!!
    Lisa Olson recently posted…Pregnancy Miracle System review by Lisa Olson – Dont buy Pregnancy Miracle before reading this reviewMy Profile

  2. Hey! I am 35 weeks pregnant and really enjoyed reading your article, thank you 🙂 I am a professional editor and noticed a few spelling and grammar mistakes while reading. I would love to proofread and edit for you, if you’re interested let’s chat!

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