Signs of Labor

How do you know if it’s the real thing?

What are the signs of labor? Many expectant families aren’t sure if they are experiencing “real” labor or if it’s just something they ate! The truth is, that labor isn’t linear and the start of labor is impossible to determine.  Labor is a process that the body begins, often long before you realize how much work is going on behind the scenes.

Perhaps you have been told, “Oh, you will know, believe me!” But how will you know? There are some guidelines, but like anything else in life, how will you know what to expect until you have experienced something?

Most couples want to know if it’s real labor because:

-They fear that baby will arrive quickly and they will have to manage the delivery themselves.

-They don’t want to be sent home from the hospital if they arrive too early.

-They don’t want to make a mistake and appear to be an over-reactive or anxious expectant parent in the eyes of the hospital or care staff.

These are valid concerns! Any normal person, who has never birthed before (or only had a couple of births), will feel unsure.


Here are some signs that your body is working “behind the scenes” to get ready for labor. It doesn’t mean labor will start tomorrow, but it does mean that things will happen in the next few days or couple of weeks. 

1. Lightening or dropping may happen in the in the last few weeks. It is the descent of the baby lower into the pelvis. This usually results in a decrease in discomfort in the upper abdomen and an increased need to empty bladder.

2. Pressure in the pelvis and rectum from the stretching of the pelvic floor muscles may be felt (causing bowel and bladder frequency)

3. Increased vaginal discharge ( may be pinkish). This often means that small capillaries in the cervix are rupturing and beginning to thin. Any bleeding, however, should be checked out.

4. Some women get a burst of energy just before labour, and others are very tired. Sometimes the baby becomes more still before birth.

5. Braxton Hicks contractions are stronger and more painful and often in the middle of the night. These practice contractions don’t intensify or progress. Contractions in “false” labor may stop with walking. They may be alleviated by a change of position, by voiding or by drinking 2 glasses of water.

6. Shivering or trembling (due to hormones)

7. A woman may notice a slight weight loss when she is near term.

8. Some women have backache, cramping, indigestion or loose stools just before labour begins. (Diarrhea is because prostaglandins affect bowel muscles as well as uterine muscles.)

The timing is Imminent…

 1. Mucus plug/bloody show – may be bright red, pinkish or brown mucous

2. Rupture of membranes/ water breaks or may leak – should be clear fluid . Phone your care provider if fluid brown or green, Go to hospital if something pulsing or dropping in vagina, mom should raise pelvis (elbows and knees position) Emergency.

3. Regular contractions which get stronger, longer and closer together

WHEN TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL? It is time to go to hospital when you have been having strong contractions (ones that you cannot easily talk through) every 5 minutes for an hour. This is for a normal, average pregnancy. Discuss this with your care provider and ask them when they would like you to make your way.


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