Possible Signs of Labor

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage

How to read the possible signs and symptoms of labor

One of the most common questions expectant parents have during late pregnancy is how can they tell if labor is indeed coming. Are there possible signs to watch for? Do mothers get any warning several days in advance that labor is around the corner? When should they start preparing their labor bags to take to the hospital or birth center? When should they start to time contractions?

Parents ought to remember that there are some signs to recognize in the days leading up to and following their due date. However, the biggest drawback is that possible labor signs can vary from mother to mother so reading a list of signs and trying to match them to what you are experiencing is not always the best gauge. When in doubt, feel free to call your health care provider. Or if you are using a doula, she can often talk you through the difference between “pre-labor” or what is sometimes referred to as a “warm-up” period of labor versus true labor.

Here are some things to watch for in the weeks and days surrounding your due date.

  1. More frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions
  2. Lingering back pain
  3. Noticing the baby’s weight has shifted downward (or the baby dropping into your pelvis)
  4. Nesting urges – energy spurts or a restless feeling at any hour of the day
  5. Some increased cervical discharge
  6. Frequent and/or loose bowel movements
  7. Possible queasy or mild flu-like symptoms

Remember that some mothers will begin to see some of these signs as early as a month before their estimated due date, while others will not notice warm-up signs until they are in week 40 or 41. It would also not be unusual for a mother to experience many of these signs or symptoms for several days or even weeks at a time.

There are occasions (about 10% of the time) when a mother may not notice warm up or possible signs in the last few weeks, but rather she suddenly notices her water breaking in the middle of the night. For her, this warm-up period has been nonexistent and replaced by a definite sign of labor. Both situations are completely normal.

Many mothers mistakenly believe that early cervical dilation means that you will go into labor soon. For example, you go to see your provider at 37 weeks and find out that you are 3cm dilated. Maybe your provider even comments that he may “not see you at next week’s appointment.” It is very hard to assume that early dilation has any correlation to going into labor early. In fact, some mothers may even reach their due date or pass it when their cervix has dilated in late pregnancy. There is no predictive value of labor with early cervical dilation.

It is a great idea to continue with your life and normal activities in the last few weeks of pregnancy even if you have some early dilation or possible signs of labor. This could be a great time to finish those last few touches on the baby’s room, prepare your hospital bags and prepare some meals to freeze since you will not be cooking much in those early weeks after your baby comes.

So what are the definite labor signs to look for? Watch for the next article coming in the Stages of Labor series on definite labor signs.

Did you have some of these possible labor signs in your pregnancy? What were they? Tell us more about it.

Leave a Reply