Giving birth Seven early signs of labour: what to look for January 25 2017
Natasha Poynton Author Natasha Poynton Journalist

It’s late into your pregnancy and you’re keen to meet the little person growing inside (or maybe just to be done with pregnancy!). But how do you know that the moment you’re waiting for isn’t far off? Here are seven signs of labour that could indicate you’re about to meet your little one very soon.

Many of us have heard of the early symptoms of labour, such as waters breaking, and a “show”, however if you don’t know your Braxton Hicks contractions from your “lightening” during pregnancy, this list might give you an idea of what to expect when you’re about to say hello to your baby.

1. A ‘show’

During pregnancy your cervix is sealed by a mucus plug. If you see a blood-stained stringy or sticky discharge, which can be pink, red or brown, this might be your mucus plug releasing to open your cervix which is often an early sign of labour. The ‘show’ can happen several days before you go into labour, or might not happen until labour itself.

2. Waters breaking

Although Hollywood would have us believe this is a regular occurrence, only a small percentage of women experience their waters breaking in a mad gush in early labour. In fact, amniotic fluid can trickle out over several days and could be mistaken for a bladder leak. If you notice a fluid that doesn’t smell like urine and you have no control over its flow, this is probably your waters breaking.

3. ‘Lightening’

In the late stages of pregnancy, with your baby snuggled under your diaphragm, you may find it harder to breathe. One of the more pleasant symptoms of labour is that your baby will move lower or ‘drop’, giving you a little more room to breathe. Of course, there’s a flip side. With bub down in your pelvis, there’s less room for your bladder, which means more trips to the bathroom!
Mother in a hopsital bed holding and looking down on her newborn baby whilst smiling

4. Your nesting instinct goes into overdrive

If you find yourself on your knees scrubbing the kitchen floor, this could be a sign you’re in the early stages of labour. The nesting instinct can be strong, and the closer to labour you get, the more restless and busy you’re likely to become. Try to resist the temptation to clean the bathroom—you’ll need to save that energy for later!

5. Mood swings

Many women report mood swings prior to going into labour. If you’re feeling irritable, have a headache, or you’re more tired than usual, rest up and take it easy as this could be a sign of labour soon to come. 

6. Diarrhoea

The body naturally empties the bowels to create space for bub to move downwards. Sometimes this happens in the early stages of labour, or it may happen during labour itself. 

7. Braxton Hicks and true contractions

Braxton Hicks or ‘practice contractions’ feel like a tightening of your abdominal muscles and can be painful for some women and unnoticeable for others. They can start in the second trimester so are not a sign of early labour by themselves. However, if they become regular, intense and frequent (about 20–30 minutes apart) there’s a good chance these are the true contractions of labour. 

If you’ve never experienced labour contractions it’s tricky to know what to expect. Some women feel early contractions as period pain. Others have lower back pain that comes and goes. But once contractions are five minutes apart it’s time to get to hospital to prepare to meet your gorgeous baby!

If you feel unsure about any of these signs of labour during your pregnancy, make sure you talk to your doctor or midwife.
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Natasha Poynton Author Natasha Poynton Journalist Natasha Poynton is an experienced writer and editor across a wide variety of subjects and mediums.