Publication date October 17, 2023

8 Signs Labor is Near: How to Tell Your Baby is Coming Soon

Some women have very distinct signs of labor, while others don’t. But no one knows what causes labor to start or when it will start. According to studies, several hormonal and physical changes help indicate the beginning of labor. 

If you don’t know what labor is then let me explain it to you, labor is another word for your body’s natural process or childbirth. It begins with your first steady contractions and goes through the delivery of both your baby and placenta.

third trimester pregnancy

During your pregnancy, if it is your third trimester, I’m sure you probably have mixed feelings about your baby. You are counting on the days to finally meet your baby, but you are also a little bit nervous about your labor. 

But because birth is different, it’s hard to predict the answers to all those questions. But knowing the signs of labor to look out for will help provide clues that it's almost time to meet your baby. 

Here are the 8 most common signs of labor, that can help you be prepared when the time comes. And especially if you are in your third trimester and wondering if labor is near, be sure to read on!

1. Lightening

If it is your first pregnancy, a few weeks before labor starts, you might experience something called lightening. 

Lightening simply means that your baby has dropped lower into your pelvis.

When your baby drops, you might feel less pressure under your ribs, making it easier to breathe. If you had heartburn during pregnancy, it might get better. (On the downside, you might be peeing every 10 minutes because your baby is putting pressure on your bladder.)

If this isn't your first baby, lightening might not happen until labor starts.

2. Loss of the mucus plug

Another common sign, as you get closer to labor, your cervix will start to efface (thin out) and dilate (open). When this happens, you may pass your mucus plug. This is a small amount of thickened mucus that has been collecting in your cervix during pregnancy.

Seeing mucus doesn't mean labor is about to start. It can still be some time before your baby arrives. But it could be a good sign that your body is getting ready.

You may experience that your mucus plug may come out all at once or as an increased amount of clear, pink, or slightly bloody vaginal discharge over many days or it could be weeks as well. 

But, if you don't have any other signs of labor, you don't need to call your doctor right away.

3. Bloody show

You must have noticed more vaginal discharge than usual during your pregnancy. But, you don’t need to worry about this because it is totally normal and caused by increased estrogen levels. 

If you have a discharge that is creamy white or clear then it is a healthy discharge. 

In the last days before labor, you'll most likely see increased or thickened vaginal discharge. This thickened discharge can be a little pinkish and it is called a bloody show and is a good indication that labor is near. 

4. Cervical dilation and effacement

As labor begins, some of the biggest changes your body goes through may be identified during cervical exams. 

These changes allow your cervix to dilate which means opening and growing wider, which will be necessary to deliver your baby.

Your doctor may do a vaginal exam during a prenatal visit to check whether your cervix has started the process of effacement and dilation. 

You may feel cervical exams uncomfortable, but these tests can be helpful for planning an upcoming induction or for estimating how much time you'll have to get to the hospital if you have a history of fast labor.

5. Braxton Hicks contractions

Another sign of labor is near, you may have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions throughout your pregnancy. These are practice contractions that help your body prepare for labor.

Braxton Hicks contractions feel like a tightening or squeezing of your uterus, lower abdomen, or groin. They usually don't last very long and are not painful.

When you're getting close to labor, Braxton Hicks contractions may become more frequent and intense. This is a sign that real contractions are coming soon, but it's not a guarantee.

In case you're not sure whether you're having Braxton Hicks contractions or real contractions, try timing them. 

Real contractions are usually regular and get closer together over time. If your contractions are irregular and don't seem to be getting closer together, they're probably Braxton Hicks contractions.

If you're having regular contractions that are 5 minutes apart or less for at least an hour, it's time to call your doctor. You may be in labor!

6. Nesting

In the weeks leading up to their baby’s arrival, many women usually report an urge to organize and clean their houses. 

We don’t know the reason behind it, it could be hormones or cultural expectations, but one thing is clear nesting is a real thing. 

Mom nesting instincts

Source: Healthline

These “nesting instincts” may take the form of planning for labor, organizing or cleaning the house, and doing other activities that help prepare for the baby’s arrival. 

You should not spend all your energy on it because it is not the most important thing. You will need as much energy as possible when you go into labor.

7. Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be another sign that labor is near. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this. 

During pregnancy, sometimes hormones causing the uterus to contract can result in diarrhea. In such situations, increasing fluid intake and avoiding sugary drinks and milk can help improve the condition.

It may annoy you, but it's completely normal. Just make sure you are drinking enough water and remember: It could be a good sign labor is near.

8. Nausea

According to some women they feel nauseated during labor and on the other hand others say they were nauseated a day or two before going into labor. 

You may feel as if your labor begins, digestion slows or stops, and you may also feel sick to your stomach. But generally, nausea happens during active labor.

During your pregnancy no matter how prepared you are about the signs of labor, it's normal if you feel some false alarm. Just don’t be embarrassed about calling your doctor.

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