Inside: Identifying the early signs of labor
One of the things I wondered about when I was closing in on my due date with my first baby was, how will I know if I’m in labor??
When you’re having your first baby it’s so hard to imagine how you’ll know! Sure there are some definite things that happen that indicate labor has started, but some commonly reported early signs of labor aren’t as noticeable.
It’s nice to have an idea of when you’re starting labor because having your baby is a really big freakin deal and you want to know when they’ll be here!!
But it’s also good to have an idea if you have any last minute things you need to get done before you go into labor, you can do those things immediately if you have start having some of these symptoms!
Right before I was due we moved and since I was going to have a home birth, I wanted to make sure my house was in decent condition since my midwife would be there as well as other guests once the baby was born.
Related: How to have a natural birth
In hindsight, there were signs labor was imminent, but I didn’t realize it because I had never been through labor before. However, I knew labor was going to happen soon once my water broke! (Definitely couldn’t miss that sign!)
So in a mad dash we had to do more prep work to get the house ready. I’m glad I had that extra time to put some more of the house together though, because sure enough I had my baby the next day and the guests started pouring in!
What’s also interesting is even if you have gone through labor before, labor doesn’t always start the same way.
Labor began differently with my second baby so it was really helpful that I knew that I was having early signs of labor because I had to arrange for childcare for my daughter.
Had I not known these early signs, I probably wouldn’t have had time to do that!
I’m sure you’re anxious to know when you’ll be able to meet your new little squishy baby so let’s dive into some signs of impending labor!
10 Early signs of labor
1.) Dilation and effacement
Even if you don’t have contractions your cervix will start to open up and thin out. However, this isn’t always a clear cut way to tell if you’re in labor or going into labor soon.
Some women may begin dilating and effacing weeks before they go into labor.
Also, don’t be discouraged if you get an exam around your due date and they tell you there have been no changes! (Change can happen fast!)
I got an internal exam on my due date with my first baby and the midwife said, “oh there’s no way you’ll have a baby today. You’re definitely going to wake up pregnant tomorrow. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you went another 7-10 days before having this baby!”
I’m pretty sure I had rage flying out my eyes at her when she said that…because that was the last thing I wanted to hear!
However, at 11pm that night, my water broke and I sure did have a baby the next day! So it goes to show you that changes can happen very quickly when you’re in labor!
2.) Mucus plug/bloody show
The mucus plug that blocks the cervix opening, will start to fall out. This may happen in small pieces or large pieces.
With my first, I never saw the mucus plug at all. With my second, it looked like the whole thing came out at once and I definitely saw it!
3.) Going to the bathroom a lot
You may poop a lot the day before or the day you go into labor. Although not pleasant, this is a good sign because it means the baby is descending down.
This may feel like a backache that comes and goes, or you may feel pain in your cervix, (because it’s widening). They will feel different than Braxton hicks, (which sort of feels like your stomach got a charlie horse).
Contractions can be tricky though because you may be experiencing practice labor, (also known as false labor). Practice labor are contractions that are warming up your uterus and softening the cervix.
Baby producing labor is obviously contractions that lead to the birth of your baby!
Related: Understanding the stages of labor
Although it may be frustrating because you may not be able to tell the difference between the two types of contractions, practice labor is still very valuable!
The general rule of thumb is if your contractions go away if you drink water and put your feet up, they are not baby producing contractions. Or if your contractions are sporadic (meaning they aren’t coming in regular intervals or for longer amounts of time) they could be practice labor contractions.
5.) Your water breaks
Sometimes this will happen right before labor and sometimes it will happen after labor has begun. Typically if your water breaks on it’s own first, labor will begin within 24 hours.
Lots of women say they experience a sudden rush to clean or get the house prepared for when the baby will come. This sudden burst of energy may mean the baby is coming soon.
7.) Malar flush
Some women get a reddish color in their cheeks at the onset of labor.
8.) The baby drops
This is pretty noticeable because all of a sudden you will feel like you can breathe again! There’s less pressure on your lungs and stomach but there’s an increase of pressure on your bladder.
Again, don’t put too much stock into this. With my first, she never dropped. With my second baby, he dropped at 36-37 weeks and from everything I read, that meant labor would happen really soon! Initially I was worried I would go into labor too soon, but then I found out you can drop weeks before you go into labor. Which of course was what happened to me!
9.) Mood changes
Some women report feeling more emotional right before they go into labor. They may cry for no reason or feel upset.
In my case, the day I went into labor, I remember feeling pretty irritable for no real reason, (other than perhaps I was 40 weeks pregnant and like ok baby, let’s get on this whole labor and birth thing!). Apparently though everyone around me noticed and said I seemed really angry. Like they didn’t even want to talk to me for fear I would snap off! I had no idea I came across that way until they told me several weeks later!
10.) Your baby’s movement changes
Your baby’s movement towards the end of your pregnancy is likely to slow or be less vigorous due to the lack of space. However, if you notice a decrease in movement in your normally active baby it could be your baby conserving energy as the beginning of labor is coming on.
*If you are at all concerned or have questions about the lack of movement in your baby at any point in your pregnancy, please talk with your healthcare provider. They won’t mind the questions and you’ll have peace of mind!
While these aren’t all sure signs you are definitely in labor, they are the most commonly reported early signs of labor. Understanding when you are in labor is useful to help you get any extra preparation finished and it’s also kinda nice to have some idea of when your little nugget is coming!