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11 Signs & Symptoms of Labor: What To Expect?

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

signs of labor

Congratulations mother! Here’s the big day, you’ve been waiting for so long. You’ll be very soon welcoming your child into the world. So, is it real, or is it real? This event is characterized by a lot of mixed emotions - the full-on excitement to meet your little one & the anxiety that comes powered by it. So, if you’re at this stage of your pregnancy, you must be experiencing all of it.

We welcome you with open arms to the final stage of pregnancy. Relax because it’s almost time to hold your little one in your arms. The labor period usually differs for every expectant mother - The signs, hour of delivery, & what you go through on the final day. Take a deep breath because, in this blog, we’ll guide you through the entire journey of the labor period.

As you get closer to the big day, you’ll experience some changes that will sail with you till the active labor & the arrival of your child. But before the labor period even begins, you can always seek blissful prenatal care in the form of massages & luxurious facials. On top of that, welcome your newborn by indulging in baby massages from the very beginning. That’s only because these massages can be the source of your child’s overall development.

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What Is Labor In Pregnancy?

The process of labor is the happening of a series of events that lasts until you give birth to your baby. You will notice a lot of signs when you get close to your big day. You can also categorize these signs as early signs of labor. Although, these signs usually help predict the approximate day of the delivery.

The labor period is usually followed by -

  • Continuous contractions

  • Cervical dilation

  • The arrival of your child

Many moms are also subjected to false alarms but you will surely experience the signs of labor that will lead you to the path of active labor.

When you’re in labor, these contractions lead to a change in your cervix and it opens (dilates) as a passageway for your child to pass through the birth canal. These contractions will also help you give push your child out of your uterus.

What Are The Early Signs & Symptoms Of Labor?

As the countdown to the little one’s birth begins, you’ll experience these early signs of labor. Read on to find out what your last days of labor would feel like -

signs of labor

1. Weight Loss Before Labor

Some expecting mothers lose weight by 1 to 3 pounds before labor. That’s because of water breaking, where your body sheds off extra water weight at the end of the pregnancy. Else, it can be also because of increased urination. You will observe that your weight gain will eventually stop during the third trimester of the pregnancy. Despite your weight loss in the last few days, your little one would be still fine and gaining weight. But no wonder, your bathroom trips will surely increase due to the extended pressure on your bladder.

2. Overwhelming Nesting Instincts

This is a very common early sign of labor. You must not directly associate it with labor or delivery but it is surely a signal that you’ll soon be welcoming your child. The nesting instincts are usually accompanied by the urge to plan & organize things for your little one. You experience little bursts of energy and cannot resist the urge to clean, organize, plan & restock up on essentials.

3. Diarrhea

This is one of the other signs to realize that your big day is coming. Just when the muscles in your uterus are softening or relaxing to prepare your body for childbirth, the impact shifts to other muscles as well. In this case, - the rectum. It results in pre-labor diarrhea. This can also occur because of the hormonal changes that are derived from the process. But the good news is that it’s normal & you just have to stay hydrated to deal with it.

4. Fatigue

Fatigue is a symbol that is prevalent not only in the early labor period but also during labor as well. As a result, it's very common to feel exhausted by the end of the third trimester. Your active bladder & constant fatigue will make it difficult for you but all you need is lots of energy & positivity. You gotta hold yourself through the labor period. So, go on mama! You’ll be fine.

5. Baby Drops

Baby dropping is when your baby's head descends down into your pelvis. This generally happens around the third trimester of pregnancy and the process is referred to as the lightening. Moreover, it is one of the main signs that labor is now approaching you. Besides, as your baby gets heavier, it automatically drops lower leading to back pain as well. For some, it may not happen until you're in labor but this normally occurs in a head-down position by your baby.

6. Loosened Joints

The hormone relaxin is released more towards the end of the pregnancy. As a result, your joints & ligaments loosen by this time to prepare you for childbirth. This also leads to diarrhea. That's only because when muscles around your rectum relax, it results in pre-labor diarrhea. Moreover, until the last few days of pregnancy, you will observe more loosened-up & relaxed joints. This is how your pelvis will open up & make up the way for your child to come out.

What Are Braxton-Hicks Contractions?

signs of labor

Braxton-Hicks Contractions are variable contractions that a pregnant woman goes through after the 20th week of pregnancy. They are often painless and are also identified as false labor pain or alarm. The main purpose of these contractions is to prepare you for the final day of labor. These contractions might even confuse you with real labor.

As you get closer to your delivery due date, you experience more contractions. The reason for their occurrence is the tightening of your uterine muscles. The tightening in your abdomen that arises & sets back often prepares you for giving birth to your child. These typically last for 15 to 30 seconds & can also get ahead by 2 minutes.

The sensation of false labor is usually associated with some of these signs -

  • Braxton-Hicks Contractions

  • Contractions that fade away with rest & movements

  • Contractions that only pass on without getting vigorous & real

A second-time mother usually experiences more Braxton-hick contractions than a first-time mommy. Besides, having no contractions at all is also not a concern, it’s completely normal. You won’t face any difficulties at the time of delivering your little one.

Final Delivery Symptoms In The 9th Month Of Pregnancy

Here are the signs that you can look for to identify that you’re experiencing real labor this time -

signs of labor

1. Water Breaking

Water breaking is one of the last signs of labor that pregnant women experience at this moment. It is the sudden blowout of the amniotic sac. After the other labor signs, your membrane rupture, & amniotic fluid leaks. The entire fluid doesn’t pass through in a single go - It may also flow slowly for some women. This fluid develops as a layer to protect your baby as it grows in the 9 months of your pregnancy.

However, only 15% of women experience natural water breakage at the time of birth that triggers the labor.

2. The Bloody Show - Loss of the Mucus Plug

A mucus plug is a shielding collection of mucus at the opening of the cervix in a pregnant woman. The purpose of this is to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. When you’re very close to your labor hours, this plug may loosen & drop out. On top of that, the texture of the mucus plug is thick and usually comes out in the form of vaginal discharge. The color stays pink & it may also include some traces of blood too, which it’s completely normal. That’s why it is usually called the 'bloody show'.

This is a direct indication of the impending labor. You can also find mucus in your underwear weeks before going into labor. But you can surely expect it to be right before final labor hours more often.

3. Lower Back Pain

A feeling of restlessness, fatigue, & lower abdominal pressure will accompany you through the final stages of labor. When labor is just 24 or 48 hours away, this pain may augment and make you uncomfortable. When your joints & ligaments loosen up to naturally prepare you for the labor, your backaches.

This pain won’t fade away even if you change your position or relax. On top of that, this pain is here to stay with you until after delivery, but you’ll be fine afterward.

4. Extreme Contractions

By this time, Braxton-hick contractions ( or the false labor alarms ) may have already prepared your body for labor. However, real labor contractions are most intense & extreme in nature. They occur at regular intervals and may last for 30 to 70 seconds each. These are no less than strong menstrual cramps partnered with terrible back pain. So, if you experience such cramps every 5 to 10 minutes, you can expect to deliver your little one within 24 to 48 hours of time span.

Unlike real contractions, Braxton-hick contractions are less acute & irregular. They prepare you for the real contractions & the labor process.

5. The Cervix Dilation

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. However, cervical dilation simply means opening (dilation) up of your cervix so that your baby passes through the birth canal. The dilation takes place of 10 cm for a vaginal delivery. Although, a 2 to 3 cm dilation indicates that you’re very close to giving birth to your little one. Besides, your doctor will often call you for weekly checkups to examine the extent of your cervix dilation.

What Is Preterm Labor?

signs of labor

A normal pregnancy usually lasts for a span of 40 weeks. However, preterm labor is when labor occurs before - 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is exactly when your body starts preparing itself to deliver too early in your pregnancy. This eventually leads to giving birth to a premature baby.

Causes of Preterm Labor

The following are the possible causes of preterm labor -

  • Giving birth to twins or triplets

  • Uterus infection

  • Weak cervix

  • Hormonal changes

  • Vaginal bleeding

Premature babies often possess a risk of various health problems. Although, these complications are short-term in nature and may require regular checkups. They can also leave a long-term impact on your child’s development.


1. How Do You Feel 24 Hours Before Labor?

The labor signs before 24 to 48 hours of delivery can differ for every woman as there is no step-by-step set of emotions that you may feel. However, most commonly, the following are the signs that you may experience before the final labor hours -

  • Low back pain

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Braxton hicks contractions

  • Cramps

  • Weight loss

2. What Is Silent Labor?

Silent labor is the process of childbirth where some pregnant women get to almost the end of their labor without feeling pain. Yes, that’s right. This is a common practice and is not rare. The logical reasoning behind this is the concept of fast labor. That is women who deliver their child in a very short period of time painlessly. They might not even feel the contractions in the first stage of the labor period.

3. Can You Be In Labor Without Knowing It?

As you get closer to the final labor hours, your doctor always guides you as per your labor signs. You can rarely go into labor without knowing it. But what’s possible is that it can happen to you without the contractions or water breaking. It can start quickly for some women and slowly for others. It’s important to keep your hospital bag ready because your body will give you some signs that it’s time now. Your contractions will take you to your final destination of welcoming your child.

4. Does The Baby Move A Lot Before Labor?

Your cervix opens up at the beginning of the labor stage. As a result, you experience contractions of the muscles in your uterus at very regular intervals. This is a way for your uterus to flex the muscles and prepare you for the final hour of labor. However, when these contractions set off or relax, your baby moves. For most women, this is usually continued during the early labor stage.

5. When To Call A Doctor When Labor Is Near?

At this stage, you’ll be seeing your doctor more frequently than usual. The doctor will help you understand the meaning of the labor signs. You would be able to identify the real labor contractions. These are more vigorous contractions & generally last for 30 to 70 seconds. If you feel any such contractions, feel free to connect with your doctor. Your doctor would have probably advised you what to do when you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy.

However, you can look for these signs and call your doctor -

  • Bleeding

  • Water breaking

  • A very severe headache

  • Rapid swelling


signs of labor

The last days of pregnancy will be full of the above-mentioned labor symptoms. Although, the happiness of bringing your child into the world will power you the right energy to deal with it. Every childbirth is different, but it’s important to look out for yourself during every stage of your pregnancy - especially the last one.

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