As the end of your pregnancy approaches, you will be getting excited about the arrival of your baby and looking out for signs of labor.
You will begin to become very aware of every change in your body and wonder if it is a sign that your baby is about to arrive. A normal pregnancy will last between 37 and 42 weeks and in the later weeks, you will begin to see signs that your body is getting ready to give birth.
While every woman is different there are certain signs to look out for when you are nearing the end of your pregnancy.
We take a look at 12 signs of labor so that you can fully prepare for the arrival of your baby. Take a look at these symptoms and signs that indicate that your need to get your hospital bag ready!
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1. A ‘show’
The most obvious physical sign that you are about to give both is when you get a ‘show’ which is a thick gelatinous blob that is pink or cream in color and may contain some streaks of blood or brown liquid.
It may come out as one piece or appear in small pieces and is a mucous plug that acts as a seal to your cervix to prevent infection in your baby. As you near your due date your cervix will begin to stretch as it softens which means that the mucous plug will become dislodged and you will get a ‘ show’.
You will usually notice your show when you go to the toilet and see it in your pants or when you wipe. You can get a ‘show’ anytime from 37 weeks but some women will not lose their plug until they are in full labor so you may not notice it.
When you get a ‘show’ you may start labor within hours but for some women, it can take several days.
2. Braxton Hicks
Braxton Hicks are often referred to as ‘practice contractions’ as they feel like tightenings over your baby bump much like real contractions can feel.
However, unlike real contractions, they do not become stronger and more frequent like real contractions but there is no doubt that they can be painful and will throw many women into a false sense that they are in labor.
Braxton Hicks occurs as your uterus gets ready for labor and they are usually irregular. For some women, Braxton Hicks occurs as early as 16 weeks but can get more frequent as you near your due date.
3. Lower back pain
Lower back pain is common in pregnancy and it will become especially difficult just before you go into labor. The plan can feel similar to period pains and can be a sign that you are ready to Gove birth.
4. Pressure around your genitals
As your body prepares for labor you will sense pressure down below as your baby gets in position to arrive in the world.
This may mean that you end up going to the toilet more often as you feel the need to relieve your bladder and bowels more. As your baby moves down your body you will often hear the phrase that the head is ‘engaged’ which is the source of the press.
This can happen as early as 34 weeks but does not always indicate that labor is imminent.
5. Loose bowels
Loose bowels and diarrhea can occur as you near your due date as your body prepares itself to make room for your baby exiting your body.
Your hormones will also change as you prepare for labor, which can also lead to loose bowls, similar to how some women experience looser stools when on their period.
6. A leaking feeling
You may begin to see changes in your discharge and feel a leak of fluid which is known as your ‘waters breaking. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby.
For some women, it may feel like a huge gush but for others, it is a slow stream of fluid that feels like you are wetting yourself. You will know it is the amniotic fluid if it runs clear rather than a normal urine color.
Your waters will usually break around 24 hours before your contractions start but for some women, they may not break naturally. If your waters break and you do not experience contractions after 24 hours you will be advised to seek medical support so that you do not risk infection.
7. Your bump drops
You will notice that your bump will begin to drop as you get nearer to your due date which means that it will start to protrude lower in your body.
This can happen a few weeks before your due date and will mean that you can eat and breathe better as the bump is not as restrictive, although it can still be uncomfortable. You may find that your walk changes to more of a waddle when your baby bump drops.
8. Vaginal pains
You may begin to experience shooting pains in your pelvis and vagina during the last few weeks of pregnancy. They can feel very sharp and can either be a stabbing feeling or like an electric shock to your body.
These pains should only last a few seconds and can be yet another sign that your body is getting ready for pregnancy. If you are worried about these pains and they last longer than a few seconds at a time you should contact a medical professional.
9. Feeling Nervous
Your hormones will mean that you become very emotional throughout your pregnancy but this is especially so in the last few weeks. As you prepare for your baby to arrive you will naturally feel nervous as you prepare for your new life.
The butterfly feelings and anxious feelings may become overwhelming particularly if you are listening to scare stories about people being in labor.
Try not to worry as this is a completely normal part of pregnancy and you will soon be exported and content once again.
You are likely to have heard of the term nesting which is a sudden urge to tidy and clean your home as you prepare for your baby to arrive.
Nesting is not something that all women experience but is very common even if you are not someone who is usually very house-proud.
While it is normal to nest you should take care not to overdo things and tire yourself out too much or pull a muscle by over-stretching, for example.
11. Your sleep pattern change
Even the soundest of sleepers will struggle to stick to their usual sleep pattern as labor nears.
As well as your bump growing and dropping, you will feel anxious and overthinking a lot of things which means you will sleep less in the weeks leading up to birth.
If you suddenly find that you are not falling to sleep at your usual time or your bedtime is getting later then it could mean that you are about to go into labor. Until you get further signs that labor is about to start you just try to catch up on some sleep in the daytime if you find that you are not getting a good night’s sleep.
12. You don’t want to leave your house
As you near the end of your pregnancy you may want to stay at home more rather than get out and about. This may be down to feeling nervous about being too far from home if you go into labor but many feel it is a sign that labor is imminent.
This is not a bad thing as you can conserve energy and look forward to using that energy when in labor and recovering from giving birth.
It is important to look out for these signs of labor so that you can be prepared for the birth of your baby. Some women will get their hospital bag ready weeks before their due date just in case of emergencies or if they go into labor early.
It is, however, important to relax as much as possible in the later stages of pregnancy so that you are well rested before enduring labor and looking after your newborn.
The signs of labor will vary from woman to woman, especially when it comes to the more emotional signs that you are about to give birth.
The more physical signs of labor, such as ‘showing’ and ‘waters breaking’ will be similar for most women although these may arise at different stages of pregnancy.
Your midwife and doctor will advise you of the signs to look out for when you are entering the later stages of your pregnancy as will your family and friends who have given birth. If you are ever unsure about what is official sign-off labor then you should seek to advice.