13 Early Signs and Symptoms of Impending Labor
So you want to know when your baby will be joining you earthside. You are either over the whole pregnant-thing, or you are just so excited and anxious that you are looking for clues. The internet is full of crap-shoot ideas that will get your hopes up for weeks possibly! Don’t read too much into any of it. The truth is that your baby will come when he is ready. We are not meant to pick our children’s birthdates, and we are all meant to grow our babies until they are ready to be born.
Now that's out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. It’s always fun trying to read into anything and everything, right? It’s like walking on pins and needles once you hit full term in pregnancy (now 38 weeks, not 37). After 5 babies of my own, and instructing more couples than I can count over the last 6 years, I have compiled a list of the most common signs that labor is near. Again, take it all with a grain of salt because after all of these experiences, my fourth baby arrived on the bedroom floor, unassisted, he came so fast. You would think I would be able to know labor was around the corner, but apparently, it needs to hit you like a freight train sometimes! Before I get to the list, there are a few signs that many women assume mean labor will begin soon. This is simply untrue, and I want to clear those first:
- In reality, early-dilation means nothing. So many women come home from an appointment at 37 weeks assuming they will have their baby any day because a doctor said they were 3cm dilated. Those same women are generally posting eviction notices to their unborn babies at 41 weeks pregnant. Having a cervical check only increases the chances and risks of infection. There is nothing telling that can come from them.
- Even a lost mucus plug can be a mean tease. You see, they can regrow. (Say, what? YEP, those gross balls of mucus can be dislodged by sex, intense activity or just chance, and if baby is not ready to be born, a new mucus plug will grow back.)
- The same goes for a ‘dropped belly.’ It just means that baby is finding his birth position, but he may find it quite comfortable and hang out there for a few weeks.
13 Signs of Impending Labor
#1 A perfect daySimply put, there can be absolutely nothing that signals labor is close. The day may play out just as every day has before. Labor may begin on a day that you have sworn it wouldn’t because of how ‘normal’ you felt all day.
#2 A gut feelingNever underestimate a gut feeling. I did, and I birthed a baby on the bedroom floor before my midwife could arrive. There may not be any physical sign – nothing you can put your finger on. There may be absolutely no reason to think you are in labor, EXCEPT a gut feeling. I had the urge to order a large spicy pizza because I was too tired to cook that day (with 3 kids already, this wasn’t unusual), and I needed to stand under a hot shower. I remember standing there with my eyes closed thinking I was in labor. I actually laughed at myself because there was no reason to think that. At 36.6 weeks pregnant and not a single contraction, I should have listened to my gut, and called my midwife to let her know I was having these feelings.
#3 An Urge to PurgeSome people call this ‘nesting,’ but I feel like nesting occurs much earlier in pregnancy. Purging things comes right at the end. It hits you like a brick wall, this need to clean out the pantry and refrigerator, drop everything at goodwill, and scrub everything clean. (Some people swear that the act of doing the purging, the squatting, bending, and lifting may trigger labor.)
#4 Water BreaksThis one is a no brainer. While contractions and labor may not begin right away, you do know that you will be having your baby soon. There is no need to rush anywhere at this moment, or even call your doctor (unless you are pre-term). It is time to start preparing for labor and getting any last minute things done. It is also a great time to rest and let the body store energy for the journey of labor that is coming.
#5 Lost Mucus Plug After 38 WeeksLike I said, mucus plugs typically mean nothing; however, if you are nearing your due date, a lost plug could mean labor is near!
#6 Back Pain
A ‘sunny-side-up’ baby causes back labor. Contractions are not felt through the abdomen as most women expect, but instead wrap around the lower back. A nagging back pain could very much be a sign of early labor.
#7 Continuous ContractionsBraxton Hicks are normal throughout pregnancy, and count as “warm-up” for labor. Some women experience regular contractions for a few days right before labor becomes active.
#8 DiarrheaThe body may “clear out” a day or so before labor begins.
#9 Bloody ShowBloody, vaginal discharge may occur as labor prepares to start.
#10 Change in EnergyYou may have a burst of energy or feel completely wiped out, the opposite of how you have been feeling recently. Tuning into the body will help you realize that there may be a bigger reason for the change in energy.
#11 Pet BehaviorAnimals just know when things are happening. Your pet may not leave your side the days before baby is born.
#12 Feeling SickThe body has a way of focusing all of itself on the task of beginning labor, and this may cause the immune system to weaken a bit and allow a common cold or other viral illness to knock you down. Load up on garlic and probiotics, and get as much rest as possible.
#13 Change in Fetal MovementIf you have a very active baby and he suddenly slows his movements, or the opposite – a more relaxed baby who increases his kicking, labor could be ready to start!