8 Signs Your Body Is Getting Ready for Labour


As your due date approaches, you may be wondering how to tell the signs your body is getting ready for labour. While every pregnancy is different, there are some common signs your body is getting ready for labour. From Braxton Hicks contractions to your water breaking, we’ve got you covered with the top 8 signs to watch out for.

Feeling ready and sure of yourself as labour and delivery get closer is simpler when you’re in the know. Let’s take a closer look at the signs your body is getting ready for labour!

Early Signs That Labour Is Approaching

As your due date gets closer, you might be wondering what the early signs of labour are. While every pregnancy is different, there are some common physical signs that your body is getting ready for birth.

In the days or weeks leading up to labor, you may notice some subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes. Here are a few of the most common early signs your body is getting ready for labour and what to look out for:

Braxton Hicks contractions

You’ve probably already experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, which are your body’s way of practicing for the real deal. As you get closer to your due date, these “practice” contractions may become more frequent and intense.

Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton Hicks are usually irregular and don’t increase in frequency or intensity. They may stop when you change positions or take a walk.

Nesting instinct

Feeling a sudden urge to clean, organize, and get everything ready for your baby? That’s the nesting instinct kicking in.

Many pregnant women experience a burst of energy and a strong desire to prepare for their baby’s arrival in the days leading up to labor. So if you find yourself cleaning out closets or washing tiny clothes at 3 am, it could be a sign that labor is near.

Mucus plug loss

During pregnancy, a thick plug of mucus blocks the cervical opening to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. As your cervix begins to thin out and open up in preparation for birth, you may lose this mucus plug.

It can come out in one large piece or in smaller bits over time, and it’s usually clear, pink, or slightly bloody. This is called the “bloody show” and it’s a good sign that labor is on the way – but it could still be a few days or even weeks before active labor begins.

Weight gain

You might notice a sudden increase in weight in the days before labor, as your body retains more fluids. This extra fluid helps to soften the joints and tissues in preparation for birth.

While sudden weight gain can be a sign of impending labor, it’s not the most reliable indicator. Some women don’t experience any noticeable weight changes before labor begins.


What Do Real Labour Contractions Feel Like?

When it comes to giving birth, one of the most common questions on every pregnant woman’s mind is: what do real labor contractions actually feel like?

The answer isn’t always straightforward, as everyone experiences contractions a bit differently. However, there are some key characteristics that distinguish real labor contractions from Braxton Hicks or other types of pregnancy pain.

Difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as “false labor,” are sporadic contractions that may start around the second trimester. They tend to be infrequent, irregular, and usually aren’t painful – just uncomfortable. Braxton Hicks also don’t increase in intensity over time.

Real labor contractions, on the other hand, are painful. They start out mild and gradually become more intense as labor progresses. Real contractions also fall into a regular pattern, coming at increasingly shorter intervals as you get closer to giving birth.

Intensity and frequency of contractions

Early labor contractions may feel like mild cramping or pressure in your lower pelvis or back. They’ll probably be irregular and vary in intensity, coming and going at odd intervals.

As labor progresses, the contractions will become stronger, longer, and more frequent. You’ll start to feel a definite pattern emerging, with contractions coming every 5-10 minutes and lasting about 30-70 seconds each.

“The contractions will start in the front and radiate to the back. The pain will start like a wave, build up, peak, and then come down. And then you will get a break in between each contraction. As true labor progresses, the contractions become more intense and closer together.” – Dr. Philippa Kaye, GP and author of The First-Time Parent

Duration of contractions

In early labor, contractions usually last between 30-45 seconds. As you progress into active labor, they’ll get longer, lasting about 60-90 seconds each.

Contractions are considered “prolonged” if they last 2 minutes or more. Prolonged contractions may indicate that labor is progressing rapidly, so contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing contractions that last longer than 90 seconds each.

When Your Waters Break

We’ve all seen the movie scenes where a pregnant woman’s water breaks in the middle of a restaurant or grocery store, creating a dramatic puddle on the floor. But in reality, only about 15% of women experience this sudden gush of fluid.

For most women, the amniotic sac doesn’t rupture until they’re well into active labor. And even then, it’s often more of a slow trickle than a dramatic flood. So what should you expect when your water breaks – and what does it actually look and feel like?

What amniotic fluid looks like

Amniotic fluid is usually clear and odorless, although it can sometimes have a slightly sweet smell. It may also contain small white flecks or streaks of blood, which is normal.

If the fluid is green or brown, it could be a sign that your baby has passed meconium (their first stool) in the womb. This can be a sign of fetal distress, so let your healthcare provider know right away if you notice any discoloration in your amniotic fluid.

Amount of fluid to expect

The amount of amniotic fluid varies from person to person. Some women only notice a small trickle, while others experience a more obvious gush.

When the amniotic sac first ruptures, you may feel a popping sensation followed by a slow leak of fluid. The flow of fluid may increase when you change positions, such as going from sitting to standing.

What to do when your water breaks

If you suspect your water has broken, the first thing to do is put on a sanitary pad to absorb the fluid. Avoid using a tampon, as this can introduce bacteria into the vagina and increase your risk of infection.

Call your midwife or doctor to let them know what’s happened. They’ll likely ask you about the color and odor of the fluid, as well as any other symptoms you’re experiencing. In most cases, your provider will want you to come in for an examination to confirm that your water has broken and to check on your baby’s well-being.

If your water breaks before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) can lead to complications like infection or preterm labor, so it’s important to get medical attention right away.

Changes In Vaginal Discharge

As your due date approaches, you might notice some changes in your vaginal discharge. This is completely normal and is just another sign that your body is preparing for labor and delivery.

Wondering what to expect with vaginal discharge as labor draws near? Let’s dive into the changes you might observe in the final days and weeks of your pregnancy journey.

Increased discharge

It’s common to experience an increase in vaginal discharge during the third trimester. This discharge, known as leukorrhea, is usually thin, clear or milky white, and mild-smelling.

As your due date approaches, your body ramps up blood flow to the vaginal area, triggering hormonal changes that kick mucus production into high gear. It’s like your vagina’s personal cleaning crew, working hard to prevent infection and keep things fresh for the big day.

Change in colour and consistency

In addition to an increase in volume, you may also notice a change in the colour and consistency of your vaginal discharge. As labour approaches, the discharge may become thicker, more mucoid, and slightly pink or brown tinged.

This pinkish or brownish discharge is known as the “bloody show.” It occurs when the cervix begins to soften and dilate, causing small blood vessels to rupture and mix with the normal vaginal secretions. The bloody show is a good sign that labor is imminent – but it could still be a few days or even weeks before contractions begin.

Losing your mucus plug

The mucus plug is a thick, gelatinous “cork” that seals the cervix during pregnancy, protecting the uterus from bacteria and infection. As your cervix begins to efface (thin out) and dilate (open up) in preparation for birth, you may lose this mucus plug.

Losing the mucus plug, which can happen all at once or gradually over several days, is another early sign of labor. The plug may come out in one large piece or in smaller bits mixed with blood-tinged discharge. It can be clear, pink, or slightly bloody in color.

“The mucus plug acts as a protective barrier for the uterus during pregnancy. When the cervix begins to open wider, the mucus is discharged into the vagina and may be clear, pink, or slightly bloody. This is also known as ‘show’ or ‘bloody show.'” – Pregnancy, Birth and Baby

While losing the mucus plug is a sign that your body is preparing for labor, it doesn’t necessarily mean that labor will begin immediately. You may still have a few days or weeks to go before active labor starts. However, if you notice a sudden increase in bloody discharge or experience any bleeding that is heavier than a normal period, contact your healthcare provider right away as this could be a sign of a complication.


Key Takeaway:

Watch out for these tell-tale signs your body is gearing up for labour: Braxton Hicks contractions becoming more frequent, a sudden nesting urge, losing the mucus plug, unexpected weight gain, real labour contractions getting stronger and closer together. If your water breaks or you notice changes in vaginal discharge like increased volume or a pinkish tinge, it’s time to get ready. Each sign brings you one step closer to meeting your baby.

Baby Dropping And Engaging

As your due date approaches, you may notice some changes in your body that signal your baby is getting ready to make their grand entrance. One of these changes is known as “lightening” or “baby dropping.”


Lightening occurs when your baby’s head settles deeper into your pelvis, preparing for birth. This can happen a few weeks or just a few hours before labor begins. When your baby drops, you may notice that your bump looks lower and you can breathe a bit easier as there’s less pressure on your diaphragm.

Pelvic pressure

While lightening may provide some relief from shortness of breath, it can also lead to increased pelvic pressure. You may feel like your baby is sitting right on your bladder, leading to more frequent bathroom trips. This pressure is a sign that your baby’s head is engaging in your pelvis, getting ready for delivery.

Easier breathing

As your baby drops lower, you may find that breathing becomes easier. The pressure on your diaphragm lessens, allowing your lungs to expand more fully. Enjoy this relief while you can, as it’s one of the small perks of late pregnancy.

Remember, every pregnancy is different, and not all women experience noticeable lightening before labor begins. If you’re unsure whether your baby has dropped, ask your healthcare provider at your next prenatal visit.

Cervical Changes And Dilation

As your body prepares for labor, your cervix undergoes some important changes. These changes, known as effacement and dilation, help your cervix thin and open so your baby can pass through during delivery.


Effacement refers to the thinning and softening of your cervix. As your due date nears, your cervix begins to soften and stretch, going from a firm, closed state to a thin, pliable one. Effacement is measured in percentages, with 100% meaning your cervix is fully thinned out and ready for delivery.


Dilation is the opening of your cervix, measured in centimeters from 0 to 10. As your cervix dilates, it allows your baby to pass through the birth canal during labor. Dilation typically starts in the days or weeks leading up to labor and progresses gradually. Once you reach 10 centimeters, you’re considered fully dilated and ready to push.

How to check cervical changes

While it may be tempting to check your own cervix for changes, it’s best to leave this to your healthcare provider. During prenatal visits, your doctor or midwife will perform cervical checks to assess effacement and dilation. These exams can help determine if labor is approaching, but keep in mind that cervical changes don’t always follow a predictable timeline.

Trust your body and stay in close communication with your healthcare team as you navigate these exciting changes on the path to meeting your little one.

When To Call Your Healthcare Provider

As you near the end of your pregnancy, it’s essential to know when to reach out to your healthcare provider. While every labor is unique, there are some key signs that indicate it’s time to give your doctor or midwife a call.

Contractions at regular intervals

When contractions start coming at regular intervals and increasing in frequency and intensity, it’s a good idea to touch base with your healthcare team. The general rule is to follow the 5-1-1 pattern: contractions coming every 5 minutes, lasting about 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour. However, your provider may have specific guidelines based on your individual situation.

Ruptured membranes

If you experience a sudden gush or trickle of fluid, your amniotic sac may have ruptured, commonly known as your water breaking. Call your healthcare provider right away, even if you’re not having contractions. They’ll provide guidance on when to head to the hospital or birthing center.

Vaginal bleeding

While some spotting or bloody show is normal as labor approaches, heavy vaginal bleeding warrants immediate medical attention. If you experience bright red bleeding, similar to a period, or pass clots, contact your provider or go to the hospital right away.

Decreased fetal movement

If you notice a significant decrease in your baby’s movement or haven’t felt them move for an extended period, call your healthcare provider. They may advise you to come in for monitoring to ensure your baby is doing well.

Remember, your healthcare team is there to support you throughout your pregnancy and delivery. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any concerns or questions – that’s what they’re there for. Trust your instincts and advocate for yourself and your baby as you navigate this incredible journey.


Key Takeaway:

Watching for baby dropping and engaging, plus changes in your cervix like effacement and dilation, are key signs labor’s on its way. Remember to reach out to your healthcare provider with any concerns or if you notice contractions, water breaking, vaginal bleeding, or decreased fetal movement.

As you near the end of your pregnancy journey, your body will start giving you clues that labour is just around the corner. From Braxton Hicks contractions to your water breaking, these signs are your body’s way of preparing for the big day.

Every pregnancy journey is one-of-a-kind, and you may not encounter every single symptom out there. Listen to your body and go with your gut – if something feels off or you’ve got questions, don’t think twice about giving your doc a call.

You’ve got this, mama! Your body is an incredible force, and it knows just what to do to bring your little one into the world. So take a deep breath, relax, and get ready to meet your baby soon.

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