7 Signs That Labor Is Near

Expectant mother timing her contractions while sitting on couch at home
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For most people, the experience of going into labor isn't nearly as dramatic as portrayed on screen, in which actors suddenly clutch their bellies in pain and race to the hospital minutes later. In real life, the signs of impending labor tend to be subtle. They may even be confusing for first-time parents.

To make matters more complicated, signs that labor is getting close can appear days or even weeks before the birth. Here are seven of the most common indications that your body is preparing to go into labor.

You Have a Backache

It's possible that your back has been achy ever since your belly got big enough to make sitting, sleeping, standing, and walking uncomfortable. However, a noticeable increase in back pain may be a sign that labor is getting close.

Back pain that seems to come and go may be a sign that labor is near.

You may also be experiencing back labor, in which contractions are more focused in your lower back than in your abdomen because of the position of your baby. Particularly if this isn't your first pregnancy, you may notice pain and crampiness not only in your low back, but also in your groin, caused by stretching of muscles and joints in preparation for birth.

New subhead: Braxton-Hicks Contractions

reference: Cleveland Clinic

Your Ligaments Loosen

Throughout your pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released. It serves to loosen up the connective tissue that holds the bones of the joints together so that when it's time for you to deliver your pelvis will yield and open to allow your baby to travel through the birth canal.

Relaxin affects all the joints in the body, so particularly as you near time to have your baby you may feel a bit clumsy. 

You Lose Your Mucus Plug

During pregnancy, the cervix (the entrance to the uterus) becomes blocked with mucus to help protect the developing baby. Once labor is underway and the cervix begins to dilate (enlarge), this mucus plug may be released.

It may come away all in one piece or in small pieces that you don't even notice. It may appear as what is called bloody show—pink, brown, or red-tinged discharge that you notice on your underwear or toilet paper after you urinate.

If you happen to be aware of when your mucus plug comes out or you notice bloody show, it could mean that labor is just a few hours away—or it could mean you still have weeks to go. 

You Develop Diarrhea

Is it the spicy Mexican food you ate last night? Or a signal that your baby is on the way? Loose stools or diarrhea can be a sign of impending labor caused by the release of hormones called prostaglandins, according to the Endocrine Society. Having the runs a day or two before labor starts also is the body's way of emptying the bowels to allow the uterus to contract efficiently.

You Have Contractions

A contraction is a squeezing and releasing of the uterus that encourages the cervix to dilate and helps to push a baby down through the birth canal. Many women have mild contractions called Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks before going into labor. These "false" contractions aren't strong or regular and tend to come and go—sometimes in response to hunger or dehydration. 

Labor contractions get progressively stronger, longer, and closer together and usually feel like a tightness that starts in the back and moves around to the front of the lower belly.

The more intense they become, the harder it will be to even talk while a contraction is in progress. 

You Need to Nest

You may experience a sudden burst of energy just before you go into labor that has you stocking up on groceries, reorganizing closets, scrubbing the inside of the fridge, folding and refolding baby clothes, straightening the bedding on the crib just one more time. This is called nesting and it happens to many expectant parents as their due date looms near.

Some people feel just the opposite—tired and weary as if they're coming down with the flu. Either way, take care of yourself: Eat well, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and save some energy for the big day. You'll need it. 

You Feel Like the Baby Dropped

This sensation, also called "lightening," actually does mean that your little one has settled deeply into your pelvis, making their way toward the cervix in preparation to push through and be born. It can happen from a few weeks to a few hours before you actually go into labor.

When your baby does drop, you may find you can breathe more easily​ since your baby will have moved away from your lungs—but you also may have to pee more often, since there will be increased pressure on your bladder. 

3 Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Back labor.

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How to tell when labor begins.

  3. Hormone Health Network. What is prostaglandins?.