As your due date gets closer, you will probably be eagerly awaiting your baby arrival. And, while there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to knowing exactly when baby will come, there are some signs that labor is coming soon. We asked our expert, Ashley Sousa, an experienced labor and delivery nurse and instructor for our childbirth classes, to explain what expecting parents can look out for that indicates labor is near.
Some early signs labor is approaching:
Nesting. This is when the parent feels a strong urge (and usually a new burst of energy!) to start preparing their home for baby. Things like setting up the nursery, and diaper stations, cleaning and folding clothes are all part of nesting. This could mean baby’s arrival could be a few days or weeks away.
Lightning Crotch. This one is as unpleasant as it sounds. Towards the end of pregnancy, the expecting parent can sometimes feel a sharp shooting pain in the rectum, pelvis or vaginal area that happens when the baby drops further into the pelvis. This pain should only last a few seconds— if it last long, be sure to mention it to your healthcare provider.
Back Pain. Back pain is another common discomfort that is often there during pregnancy, but when labor is close, it can get worse and indicate labor is near. Some parents experience stronger back pain as labor is approaching because early contractions often start in the lower back, then wrap around your abdomen. Some ways to help relieve this is by taking a hot shower, sitting on a birthing ball, or having your partner roll a tennis ball or gently massage your lower back.
Losing your mucus plug. In the beginning of pregnancy your mucus plug forms at the opening of your cervix to protect the baby from bacteria that might travel through the cervix into the uterus. Losing your mucus plug is a sign labor is approaching in weeks or days. You may lose your mucus plug all at once, in pieces, or sometimes not at all. When it does happen, it doesn’t hurt. It can look like a sticky clear, white, yellow, brown, or blood-tinged glob that you might find on toilet paper after you wipe, your underwear, or in the toilet.
Note: If you notice anything like this before 36 weeks of pregnancy be sure to call your healthcare provider.
Prostaglandins. These hormones are released towards the end of pregnancy to help soften the cervix. And, while you can’t see them, you might notice signs like diarrhea. If this happens to you, be sure to stay hydrated and continue eating a well-balanced diet.
While all of the signs above certainly can indicate that labor is on its way, it does not mean you have to rush to the hospital when you notice them — birth could be a few days or weeks away.
Water breaking. One early sign of labor that does require urgent action is your water breaking. You’ve likely heard about or seen this telltale sign in movies, which is often shown as a large gush of water, but that spontaneous rupture of membranes is not always that dramatic. In fact, according to Ashley, only about 8-10% of women experience this pre-labor, during which you may feel a pop or gush sensation. After this, there may be a lot of fluid or just a slight trickle — both are normal.
Pro tip: If you are unsure if your water has broken, try placing a pad in your underwear, lie down for 10 minutes, then stand up. If fluid comes out it may be your amniotic fluid. If you suspect your water has broken, be sure to call your healthcare provider immediately who will walk you through next steps.
As you near the end of your pregnancy, keep these signs in mind. To learn everything you need to know about pregnancy, labor, and delivery, check out our childbirth classes.