As the end of your pregnancy approaches you are probably becoming a little nervous about what to expect, what early signs of labor, and when the call the doctor. Every new mother has these same fears and worries. Knowing how to identify “real” labor, having all the phone numbers handy of who to call when your labor starts, and talking to your doctor about your fears will all help to ease your worries.

So what is labor? Labor is what your body does in order to prepare for and deliver your baby. The contractions help to thin and open the cervix so your baby can move down and out of the birth canal.

Labor will generally start around your due date. If you are experiencing labor symptoms early call your doctor right away. Each pregnancy is different, some women have quick labors, while others will labor for much longer. Just like with everything else about pregnancy every one is different.

Your body will begin doing things to prepare for the labor and delivery any where from a few hours to a few days before your actual labor will begin. This is commonly known as pre-labor. Here are a few early signs of labor to watch out for.

  • Your may notice that your baby seems to have “dropped”. Some time during the last few weeks or days of your pregnancy the baby will begin moving into position for delivery. This is known as enlightening or “dropping”.
  • You may notice that your Braxton Hicks or false labor pains are becoming stronger. These are not actual labor pains but they do work to help begin thinning out the cervix in preparation for the real thing.
  • Many women experience an upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea in the days leading up to labor. Your body is getting ready for the pushing that will take place by cleaning out your system.
  • You may experience bloody show (a blood streaked mucus). This typically happens as the cervix begins to dilate. The bloody show is also know as a mucus plug, which plugs the cervix during pregnancy to help prevent infections and bacteria from entering the uterus during pregnancy.

Given all the symptoms that your body is going through to prepare for “real” labor how will you know when the real thing has started? It can be difficult at first to know if what you are experiencing is indeed labor, in no time you will figure it out. Here are the signs that “real” labor has begun and it is time to call the doctor and head to the hospital.

  • Contractions are coming with some frequency at regular intervals, don’t subside when you change position or drink water. When you begin to feel contractions you will want to begin timing them as the doctor will want to know how far apart they are and how long they are lasting.
  • Unlike with false labor pains (Braxton Hicks contractions) you will feel real labor contractions in your back as well as your stomach. The contractions will typically begin in your back and move around to the front.
  • You may feel abdominal cramping or an upset stomach, as well as experience diarrhea. This is thought to be caused by the increased hormones that prompt labor to begin.
  • Your water will break, also known as ruptured membranes. Not all women will experience this, some women will have to have their water broken after arriving at the hospital.

If you experience any of these symptoms, or you have other indications that labor has begun contact your doctor. Your doctor will likely get some information from you to try to determine if this is the real thing and how far along you are. If this is indeed the real thing the doctor will advise you to head to the hospital.

Knowing what to expect and how to identify the early signs of labor can be a little nerve wracking for new mothers. Talk to your doctor or midwife about your concerns and fears. They can help educate you so you feel better prepared.

Here are a few helpful websites.

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280 Responses to Early Signs of Labor

  • Tina,

    I would call your doctor and let them know about the symptoms you are having to see what they think. It is probably normal but always good to double check with your doctor.

  • Jessica says:

    I was sleeping and I’m 39 weeks and two days pregnant. I woke up with the worst sore tummy and I have very very bad diarea worst I have ever had and following this with sharp tummy pains
    I had a hot shower and I feel
    Ok now, what is this?

  • Jessica,

    It could be your body getting ready for labor, or it could be a stomach bug. If the symptoms persist I would let your doctor know.

  • Alice says:

    Was sleeping too and woke with Tummy pains I had to rush to The loo and had really bad tummy. Its gone away now… Just got slight aching sort of pain… Not in agony tho. Is this labour or bad tummy lol? I’m 35 weeks +4 xx

  • Alice,

    Contractions are a tighting that starts in the back and wraps around to the front. They come and go, are not constant. Usually once contractions start you know it. If you are concerned about what you are experiencing right now I would call your doctor or go into labor and delivery to get checked out., especially since you are still pre-term.

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  • CMS says:

    The problem with my pregnancy and knowing if what I’m experiencing is “early labor signs” or not, is that my ENTIRE pregnancy I’ve had diahrea (rather than the typical constipation), my baby has been “low” all along, and I’ve had Braxton Hicks contractions since week 20. Lately my back has hurt a lot (on one side), but I figure that’s mostly because I’m carrying 15 pounds of extra weight in my belly (that’s what I’ve gained, at 34 weeks) and baby likes to hang out on that side.
    I also have a stressful job (emotionally stressful, not so much physically, except for the occassional long hours).
    My hubby thinks baby will arrive late “because all first pregnancies are late” (says hubby….”pshaw” says I). I think baby will be early.
    But I don’t want to discount a pain, poke, stab, or difference as “ehh, it’s normal”, and find myself delivering our baby on the bathroom floor….at WORK!
    Yes, in case ya’ll are wondering, this is my first go around, so I really haven’t a clue what “real labor” feels like. I’m just banking on THAT being my “saving grace” in keeping me from squatting out a little person on my lunch break! (Here’s hoping baby gives me enough time to get to the hospital…delivering in the front seat of the car on highway 1-0-get-this-kid-outta-me! is only slightly better than workplace tile.)

  • Ivana says:

    Hi I am 38 week pregnancy and due date is aug 27th. its really soon. i did walk alot, stairs, sex alot but it wont work out. i really want baby out because i am patient with pain bottom from my private and my baby head is down and too heavy for me..i try to get up from bed and ask my bf to help me get up and felt hurt from that private near bone. I felt too soon but i dk when baby get ready?? I wait for labor come?? any advice can early labor?

  • Ivana,

    You can’t really predict when labor will start or force it to start. When your baby is ready to come your labor will start. Talk to your doctor about when they may induce if your labor had not started naturally.

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  • corina says:

    Im 38 weeks 1 day and for,2 days had a bad tummy,vomit once and diarreha im i ready for labor? Plus this in #3 for me and never experienced this with my last 2

  • Bobbie says:

    I’m 33 weeks and I was going to sleep to jump up to a very bad upset tummy and vomiting this is the second time this week. Why is that happening this is my 3 baby never had it like this before. Really don’t want my baby to come early?

  • anza says:

    Hi my name is Anza
    I am 27yrs old and this is my second baby
    I am 38 weeks and 2day and I have been experiancing some tereble stomach aches and vomiting a lot for the past 3 days I went to see my doctor but I don’t seem to be getting better even as I’m writting I’m buzy vomiting sweating and very dizzy. Does anybody know what the problem can be. Thanks in advance and God bless

  • Anza,

    It sounds like a stomach bug of some kind to me. I would definitely check back with your doctor.

  • Christina says:

    I have been having the same issues! It woke me out of dead sleep as well. It was a horrible feeling; vomiting and diarrhea at the same time. Just before I went to sleep prior to that I was having a lot of pressure like my period was coming. I’m 38 weeks and hoping this means the baby is coming really soon! I’m so over stuff like this and want my “body” back lol. ( in reference to being able to bend and move around somewhat like I was used to lol )

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  • katiehustler says:

    Hi ive only got 8 weeks left and ive been waking up with pains in my lower stomach and ive got stomach upset when i go i get realy hot and feel sick can any give me advice as this is my first time please

  • Lauren says:

    I am 37 weeks + 3 days (due February 8th) with my third child. Twice now over the last two weeks I have been convinced that I was in labor I waited it out at home so that I would be admitted to the hospital if that was the case, but it went away both times. Yesterday at my doctors appointment when I was effaced 30% and 1 cm dilated. That’s the same as last week!

    My question is this! …..How many moms out there have gone from 1 cm to full blown labor within a short time? Technically speaking, I know the turkey in my belly still ‘cooking’. BUT I have had such a rough time this whole pregnancy. From the standpoint of hope, I am hoping that this is happened quickly before. My two older children both had short births, but that was barely 10 years ago, and I am worried my body has forgotten.

  • liz says:

    Lauren im 38 weeks 6 days and at my last appt on janurary 31st I was 70% effaced and not diated. Im due the 11th but my doctor told me I could give birth 3 days before my due date bcus of how thin I am. I cnt wait to finally hold my baby girl. I kno the waiting is tough but we got to wait it out :)

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