8 early signs of labor to expect at the end of expecting
Have you noticed cramps or a slight drop in weight? Learn more about these and other signs that labor is not far off.
You're gliding along to the sweet-meets-hectic pace that all expectant mothers operate at in the days before your due date when you suddenly realize that something feels off. Could you be experiencing signs of labor? While it's common to experience physical changes at different stages of pregnancy, you shouldn't ignore abrupt and distinct shifts. Knowing the first signs of labor — or that you're reaching the end of your pregnancy — can help you along on "baby watch" so you're better prepared for a healthy birth. Look out for these eight common signs that labor is less than two days away, and remember to always contact your medical provider if you suspect you're experiencing labor signs.
Many women feel startled when once-familiar feelings of menstrual cramps that have been absent for nine months suddenly appear in the last weeks of pregnancy. These cramps are actually early uterine contractions. They are often identified by a wave-like movement that flashes across your uterus from top to bottom. In some cases, the cramping is actually caused by the cervix dilating.
If you're experiencing what you suspect are labor contractions or dilation, let your doctor know. You'll need to start counting the time between contractions to know when to head to the hospital for delivery. What if you're feeling cramps before 37 weeks? Cramping can also be one of the signs of preterm labor–all the more reason to let your doctor know right away.
2. weight gain leveling off
If you've been steadily gaining weight for close to nine months, a stuck scale may feel like a cause for alarm. However, it's actually healthy and common for weight gain to level off just prior to labor. Many mothers will even lose 1-3 lbs in the days leading up to labor. This loss/leveling is due to a drop in water weight rather than fat loss. In addition to having less amniotic fluid, you may lose water weight through urination as the baby drops and puts pressure on your bladder.
We know what you’re thinking… Is diarrhea really a sign of labor? It sure is. Typically, pre-labor diarrhea will start one to two days before the show begins. You can thank hormones called prostaglandins, which are released when the body is gearing up for labor to help empty the bowels for more efficient uterine contractions.
4. loose joints
If your joints suddenly feel loose, there's a good chance labor is imminent. This is due to the release of relaxin, a hormone that trickles in throughout pregnancy but ramps up in the final trimester. Relaxing helps to loosen your ligaments in preparation for the baby passing through the pelvis. You may find that your body feels very soft and relaxed. Just be careful when moving around because those softened joints can actually make you more prone to injuries.
Are you suddenly completely wiped out? While you may have been buzzing around your third trimester with what felt like supernatural energy, a sudden crash is a sign that labor is coming. Why are you suddenly exhausted right before labor? Extreme tiredness before labor is actually pretty common because the body is conserving energy in anticipation of delivery.
6. the baby drops
What does it feel like when the baby drops before labor? The most common sign is feeling pressure in the pelvis. This is often referred to as “lightening.” You may notice that you're suddenly waddling like a penguin. Yes, that's a clue that the baby has dropped in preparation for making their debut! You may also feel flashes of pain or tension in the pelvic area. This sensation is caused by the baby's head pushing against the ligaments in your pelvis.
7. loss of your mucus plug
Noticeable changes in vaginal discharge could indicate that your body is preparing for labor. Your mucus plug is a seal that forms over the opening of the cervix to keep unhealthy bacteria from reaching the uterus. It's common for the mucus plug to fall out just prior to labor. While some women notice a large glob that falls out, others may simply notice an increase in vaginal discharge.
You may have also heard the term "bloody show" mentioned alongside the mucus plug. However, these are not the same thing. Bloody show is a discharge of pink-tinged or brown-tinged mucus that some women experience as the blood vessels in the cervix begin rupturing. It is also a sign that labor is very near.
Are you suddenly feeling extremely domestically inclined? No, it's not just an urban myth that women experience the urge to clean, organize, and prepare their homes prior to labor. The nesting instinct is a burst of energy that moms get before going into labor that inspires them to "prepare the nest." It's just nature's way of making sure your baby will be safe and protected. You may feel an overwhelming desire to make your home "just perfect" for the new baby. This biological instinct may ramp up as labor gets closer. While this is not a physical sign of labor, mothers often report that they were actually folding laundry, assembling a crib, or testing out the car seat when labor kicked in.