The moment you find out that you are pregnant is just the most wonderful feeling in the world if you have planned it.
After the excitement has calmed down it’s likely that you will start thinking about labor and what it will be like for you.
Every woman on the planet experiences labor in a different way and those first signs of labor might not be exactly what you are expecting. They may even surprise you!
Today I just want to shed some light on the different signs of labor that you will experience.
The thing about labor is that it is not always obvious. I’m going to show you a mixture of signs that labor is coming soon and some instances where labor is imminent.
***Please note that this site uses affiliate links if you would like to read the legal stuff you can find it here
What are the first signs of labor approaching?
It’s a good idea to prepare yourself to be fully knowledgeable so you know what to expect as the time draws closer.
No one likes to walk into anything blindly and going into labor should be no different!
There are a TON of things that you may not even have thought about yet that you need to know.
I was completely unprepared with my firstborn and it showed.
When I look back I cringe at the mistakes that I made. It was just silly little things but they are things that would have made me more comfortable on the day that I gave birth.
Don’t be like me, be wise and get yourself a really good prenatal class.
You can find one that you can attend in your area or you can save yourself tons of hassle and sign up for one online like this one.
Below I have listed out the 10 first signs of labor approaching that you should be on the lookout for if you want some idea of when you can expect to meet your new baby.
Here are the 10 signs of labor approaching
Some of these things happen in the weeks leading up to delivery and some happen days before labor kicks in. Let’s take a look!
1. Braxton Hicks
Some people can get confused over Braxton hicks. I know I certainly did during my first pregnancy.
Braxton hicks are your body’s way of preparing for labor. They are also known as practice contractions or false labor.
Thankfully they feel nothing like the real thing and aside from feeling slightly uncomfortable, they shouldn’t bother you too much.
Braxton Hicks can start anywhere from the second trimester but are more commonly known in the third trimester of pregnancy.
The frequency of your Braxton hicks will increase the closer to labor you get.
Braxton hicks usually happen as the uterus tightens then releases again.
2. Engagement (Baby drops down)
When your baby becomes engaged it means that your baby is in the best position for giving birth.
This generally means that your baby is head down and has entered into your pelvis.
Engagement happens at different times for different women but again this tends to happen mostly in the third trimester in those final few weeks.
If you are very active during your pregnancy it is likely that it could happen sooner.
If your baby has not engaged after a certain amount of time you will find that your midwife will advise you to take walks to help with “getting baby moving”.
As your baby drops down, walking can get a little more uncomfortable and this is usually when you see women doing the pregnancy waddle.
I can only describe the dropping down effect as feeling heavy. You almost feel like you want to hold your baby up in case they fall out (they totally won’t though)
3. Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is also another sign that labor is approaching. It could be that each time you visit the toilet you may see some discharge.
If this is happening, it should be clear and odorless.
If there is any color or smell, you need to visit your doctor immediately as it could be a sign of something more serious.
- 10 Weird pregnancy symptoms you probably don’t know about
- 6 Tips on how to induce labor naturally
- Best sleeping positions during pregnancy
Your final trimester may leave you feeling wiped out. This is not unusual at all.
Your body is extremely clever and it knows that something big is about to happen.
Your body will begin storing and using up more nutrients for the baby in preparation for the big day when you give birth.
This is the reason some women like to take supplements either recommended by their doctor or over the counter ones during this time. They make the world of difference and you can rest assured your baby will be getting all the nutrients that they need too.
If you are unsure where to start, I would recommend these ones. They are the best ones that I found when I was pregnant. Best of all they contain folate and not folic acid which is much gentler on your body.
You may also notice that your iron levels also drop lower in your final trimester too.
It is quite common for women to become anemic during this time. This is because of the excess amount of blood that the body produces to provide enough nutrients for your growing baby.
All of this contributes to the fatigue that you feel in those last few days or weeks of pregnancy.
Again if you have noticed that you are extremely tired, you will need to see a doctor as it can become quite dangerous if left untreated.
5. Increase in Bowel Movements
Extra bowel movements happen in the last few days before your baby arrives.
It is a great sign that you are in the early stages of labor.
In your last few days of pregnancy, your body will attempt to empty your bowels to make sure there is room for your uterus to be able to contract efficiently.
Believe me, you will be very glad of this later on when you come to deliver!
- What to expect during labor – All the embarrassing stuff!
- How to avoid the ring of fire during childbirth
These next 5 signs of labor approaching tend to occur much closer to your delivery date.
6. Waters Break
Although some people think that once your waters break it means that labor is imminent, it does not.
Your waters can technically break a couple of days before you go into labor. They can also break much later on.
I’ve had 4 children and my waters have never broken before I have gone into active labor.
In fact, either I have had to have them broken for me or they have gone in my last few pushes before the baby comes out.
Also just to be clear it is highly unlikely that if your waters break before active labor begins that it will break like a tap on full blast.
What they show on TV is very unrealistic. You are much more likely to have a trickle of water rather than full-on floodgates.
This is why for some women when their waters break they feel as though they have wet themselves.
If you are ever unsure, put a sanitary towel in your knickers and show it to your midwife.
Want to remember this Is labor approaching post? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!
Often confused with a mucus plug, a “show” is the aftermath of a mucus plug.
In your final days of pregnancy, it is normal to start seeing bits of your mucus plug coming away.
Your mucus plug is a whitish color but later on when you have a “show” that is a reddish-brown color.
The two things are very similar but different. A show is a mucus plug tinged with blood.
Your mucus plug forms during pregnancy and lodges in the cervix to protect the baby.
Your mucus plug stops bacteria and any other nasty infections from harming your baby. It also protects your baby if you have sex or perhaps when you have a vaginal exam.
In short, you want that mucus plug to stick around as long as possible.
As your cervix begins to open up you will start to see more of your mucus plug coming away and then finally a show.
8. Cervix Dilation
In order for your baby to come out into the big wide world, your cervix has to open up.
The maximum your cervix can open is to 10cm.
You might find that your cervix slowly begins to open in your final few weeks of pregnancy.
This is nothing to be worried about but try not to do anything too strenuous during this time.
You may not even notice your cervix opening up until your midwife does an internal examination and tells you.
Women feel varying degrees of labor pain but usually, you may not feel any pain until you are around roughly 3cm.
9. Dull Lower Back Pain
As you enter into early labor you might find that you begin to feel some dull lower back pain.
This is not yet active labor and is usually just more uncomfortable rather than truly painful. So don’t rush off to the hospital just yet.
The longer you can labor at home the better it will be for you as you will be in the comfort of your own home.
If this is your first baby, you may not even deliver for another couple of days so don’t be in too much of a rush at this stage.
If you go to the hospital too early you will only be turned away and this will do no good for your psyche anyway.
First time pregnancy labor tends to take longer (I’ve no idea why) so it is quite possible that you could be in labor for another day or so before active labor kicks in.
These real contractions are a surefire way to know that you are in labor.
If the contractions are regular, don’t go away when you move around and they begin to get worse, congratulations you are in true labor and will be meeting your bundle of joy very very soon. You can track your contractions in my free worksheet below.
If you are unsure if you are having real contractions or not then you can have a read of this as it will explain real contractions and compare them to false labor.
Final thoughts on the signs of labor approaching
These first signs of labor approaching are not exhaustive and there may very well be more signs out there but these are definitely the main ones that you will noticeably come across.
It’s a good idea to take a prenatal class if you are unsure of anything.
What you will learn about in a prenatal class:
- When its time to go to the hospital
- What happens in a vaginal delivery
- What to expect from a c-section
- Counting contractions
- How the nurses check to see how dilated you are
- Going home from the hospital
- The first few days at home with your new baby.
We can all get caught for time when we are in our final few weeks of labor but if you can only manage to take one prenatal class I would highly recommend this one from Hilary of Pulling Curls. Not only is she a registered nurse but she has been doing it for many many years in the labor and delivery field.
Get your partner to join you in this online class so that you can birth in confidence. The more your partner knows what to expect the more relaxed you can be during labor. Take a look at the class here.
Going into labor shouldn’t be something that you have to continuously feel fearful about. Be prepared so you can birth in confidence.
Get access to my free contractions monitor template so you can monitor your frequent contractions
- Bloody mucus plug: Do you know what it is?
- Lightning crotch: Do you know what it means?
- Diarrhea in pregnancy and how to treat it