7 Signs That Labor Is Near

Expectant parent timing their 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 it's portrayed on screen, in which actors suddenly clutch their bellies in pain, fluid gushes out from between their legs, they race to the hospital, and minutes later are holding their newborn. In real life, the signs of impending labor, such as diarrhea, lightening, and backache, tend to be subtle and may build slowly over time. 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—or they might progress very quickly. Here are seven of the most common indications that your body is preparing to go into labor. Learn more about the signs that labor is near.

What Are the Most Common Signs of Labor?

The experience is labor (and impending labor) is unique for each person. However, there are some common signs that many people experience. If you have some or all of the following signs, check in with our doctor, as your baby very well may be on their way to you soon!

You Develop Diarrhea

Was it something you ate? 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. Typically, diarrhea as a sign of labor begins a few days before labor starts but this varies from person to person.

Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, get enough rest, and monitor yourself for any other symptoms. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns. However, if your diarrhea is mild, it's probably nothing to worry about. But if you also have a fever, severe stomach cramping, or diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, your OB/GYN may want to have you come in for a check-up.

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.

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 the 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 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 pregnant people 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, and 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. 

A Word From Verywell

Every pregnancy and labor is unique—and each labor progresses in its own way, on its own schedule. However, there are some common signs that labor is near, including feeling like the baby has dropped, getting a backache, and having diarrhea and contractions. Whenever you get new symptoms, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor or midwife, especially if you have any concerns and/or if your due date is near.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How to tell when labor begins.

  2. Hormone Health Network. What is prostaglandins?.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Back labor.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.