A Super Simple Guide to The Early Signs of Labor

Article By
Published On
14 Aug, 2023
Read Time
3 minutes

As an expecting parent, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between normal pregnancy symptoms and the early signs of labor. We've written this guide to give you valuable information on what to look out for and when to contact your healthcare provider.

Knowing the early signs of labor can help you prepare for the arrival of your baby, so let's dive in and explore the key signs that your body may give you that labor is near.

What are the early signs of labor

There are a few key indicators that signal that labor is about to start, but the truth is, every labor experience is unique.

You may experience some of the symptoms we're going to run through, but this doesn't necessarily mean that your labor will start immediately.

  • Belly drops: Toward the end of your pregnancy, your baby may be nestled under your diaphragm which can make breathing more difficult. Fortunately, one of the more enjoyable signs of labor is that your baby will start to move down or 'drop'. This is sometimes known as lightening, and it can give you a little more breathing space.
  • Nesting: You may find that your nesting instincts can become very strong as you approach labour and you might find yourself going from room to room making sure that everything is ready for your new arrival. Although it's great to be prepared, it's important to resist the urge to scrub the house from top to bottom, you'll need to conserve your energy for birth, so try to relax and put your feet up if you can!
  • Backache: Some people get a heavy ache in their back when their labor first starts.
  • Contractions or tightening feeling: You can be sure that your labor has begun if your contractions get closer and last longer.
  • Urge to go to the restroom: If your baby has moved further down in your pelvis, you might feel like you need to go to the restroom more often.
  • Losing mucus plug: When you're pregnant there's a plug of sticky pink mucus in your cervix, and this comes away just before labor starts or during early labor. This is called a 'show' and contains a small amount of blood.
  • Waters breaking: Your waters can break during labor or before labor starts.

When do early signs of labor typically start?

The early signs of labor typically start in the third trimester between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.

When should I go to the hospital if I am in labor?

If this is your first pregnancy, you might be uncertain about when it's time to go to the hospital or midwifery unit. The best thing to do is to get in touch with your hospital or unit for guidance.

If your waters have broken, you'll likely be asked to come in for a check-up. If you're experiencing contractions but your waters haven't broken, you may be advised to wait.

Typically, you'll be asked to come in when your contractions are:

  • regular and strong
  • around five minutes apart
  • lasting for at least 60 seconds

Don't forget to call the hospital or unit before leaving your home and make sure you bring your notes and hospital bag.

If you live far from the hospital, it's best to leave sooner to make sure you get there in time.

Second babies tend to arrive faster, so you may need to contact the hospital, midwifery unit, or midwife sooner.

If you're planning to give birth at home, follow the procedure you've discussed with your midwife regarding the onset of labor, and make sure you're aware of the signs.

When should I be concerned about any signs of labor?

You should seek medical advice if:

  • you're experiencing early labor symptoms before the 37th week of your pregnancy
  • you notice that your baby's movements have slowed or stopped
  • you have bright red vaginal bleeding
  • your waters break and they're smelly or colored