It's Time!: Signs of Going Into Labor

Updated on April 20, 2016

How do you know when you're in labor?

Like most first time mothers, I was unsure how I was to know if I was in labor or not. I knew that most women suffer from severe contractions as they go through labor, but like pregnancy, every woman experiences it differently. I asked family and friend who have had children within the last two years, but as I expected, they all had different takes on it. I just wanted a list of signs to watch out for, but Instead I got their personal opinions. So I took to researching and thought I'd share my findings and personal experience with other first timers.

There are many signs that will tell you that you're close to going into labor and that will let you know when you're in it. As I mentioned earlier, every woman is different. So if you don't experience some of the signs or if you experience them differently from how I describe them, don't worry, it's not a bad thing. Like pregnancy, labor and childbirth is very personal. My labor story will not be the same as yours or even as my future labor and delivery stories.

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Signs that you are close...

Symptoms can begin to occur up to two weeks prior to the actual big day.

The Lightening
This is a term for the baby dropping farther into the pelvis, in preparation for labor and delivery. You may notice feelings of pressure or constantly having to pee. You may even not feel anything at all, in fact someone else may notice that your baby has dropped. I both felt the shift in pressure and was told by others that it looked like my baby boy had dropped.

Braxton Hicks
Braxton Hicks are sporadic false contractions caused by the tightening of the muscles in the uterus. Believe it or not these contractions actually begin about six weeks into your pregnancy, however you will not feel them until your third trimester. This symptom can be confusing as it may cause you to think you're going into actual labor. Remember these contractions are sporadic, so they will be random and you may be able to relax them by resting, switching positions, or moving. Labor contractions will be much more intense and less random (not every woman experiences them at regular intervals. I didn't). Think of it as practice for your uterus.

The Nesting Process
This is an interesting symptom that occurs in the third trimester. Like Braxton Hicks, this symptom can occur at any point in the third trimester, most likely closer to Labor.The nesting process is a primal instinct that you cannot control. Nesting is the uncontrollable urge to basically tie up any loose ends. You may clean your house frequently, or organize constantly. You may even do such things at check your emails often or even just stay home to feel safe. You may want to put the finishing touches on your baby's nursery. You'll most likely be obsessing over being prepared for the new baby in some way or another (For example, registering on websites like enfamil, huggies, planningfamily etc.). Women almost always go through this process without realizing it, but some women never go through it. Take notice if you start obsessing over the state of organization in your house, it may just be the nesting process in full effect.

Loosening of the Mucus Plug/Bloody Show
Another thing that will occur when you're getting close to labor is the loosening of your mucus plug or bloody show. Your mucus plug will come out and will probably look white, clear, bright red or pink. It may come out in pieces or all in one shot.


Michelle Collins, Certified Nurse Midwife, Talking In Depth About The signs of Labor & Delivery

Symptoms and Stages of Labor

Symptoms of Labor
There are several symptoms that will let you know you're going into or are already in labor.Some are not quite noticeable and some women don't get some symptoms. These symptoms include: contractions, losing the mucus plug and pressure on the pelvis area as your little one drops further into your pelvis.

This is the most common symptom of labor. At this stage, contractions will most likely not be Braxton hicks. These contractions should feel more intense and occur at regular intervals. Although there are many woman who do not have regularly occurring contractions. Mine did not occur at regular intervals, however, I knew it was time as they were intense and rapid. They are known as progressive contractions because they will occur longer and closer together as you get closer to delivery. A Doula would be able to assist with relaxing you during these contractions.

Ruptured Membrane/Water Breaking:
This is can be spontaneous or it can be brought on by contractions. Some women say they felt a pop when their water broke while others don't feel it until water is trickling down their leg. Rarely will you see the Hollywood style gushing of water when the water breaks. It will usually be a slow trickle. Sometime a doctor or midwife may have to break your water for you. Once your water is broken contractions will speed up and intensify.

Symptoms To Be Wary Of...
If you experience any of the following symptoms seek medical attention immediately:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Headache
  • Double Vision
  • Severe Pain
  • Hemorrhaging

Stages of Labor
Labor is broken down into three stages which begin when you start to get regular contractions and ends when you pass the placenta. Labor usually lasts around 13 hours on average, so there is usually no reason to rush to the hospital. It's important to stay calm, take your time in making sure you have everything you'll need and know the stages of labor.

First Stage:
This stage is when the contractions start to intensify. This is the active phase. Once your contractions get closer together, you're in the transition phase. Between the active phase and the transition phase is a good time to start heading over to your hospital or the place you plan to give birth. During this stage your cervix will dilate and efface. Dilation will start at 0cm and increase all the way to 10cm. At 10cm, you're ready to give birth. Effacement is when your cervix softens in preparation for delivery.

Second Stage:
In this stage delivery will begin. Your contractions should be closer and stronger at this point. You may even feel the need to push (or not if you received medication for pain). One way or another, you will be directed what to do by your doctor, midwife or nurse. The second stage is over once your bundle of joy has been brought into the world.

Third Stage:
Beginning immediately or anywhere up to an hour after birth, your doctor, midwife or nurse will instruct you to give another push so that you may pass the placenta. They may refer to this as the afterbirth. You will probably be so preoccupied with your little one that this won't even phase you. Once the placenta is out, the healing process will begin. You will probably have to stay in the hospital for two or three days. Make sure you have a carriage, carrier or carseat so that you can bring the new baby home!

What signs of labor are you most nervous about?

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© 2011 Skylar Spring

Did you find this helpful? Are you prepared for labor and delivery?

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    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      hi Skylar spring good hub.Thanks for this hub.My wife is preparing to give birth to my baby, this is a good guide for her. I have doubt, can you explain more about Braxton Hicks?

    • Skylar Spring profile image

      Skylar Spring 6 years ago from New York

      Ah thank you for catching my typo. I meant cm.

    • profile image

      ardnaxela 6 years ago from United States Of America

      Good article. Only thing I found was slightly odd that that you put mm instead of cm. Cm is different then mm. There are 10 mm to 1 cm, and to be able to push in childbirth, a woman would have to be 10cm.