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How To Recognize The Common Signs Of Early Labor

Updated on November 6, 2010

All women should know how to recognize the signs of labor. The symptoms can be different from woman to woman. Although many individuals are aware of what to expect, the symptoms of early labor can be as difficult to interpret as the weather. Fortunately, most will listen to their body and understand the first signs before too much time elapses. And so - in case you're still unsure as to what may be classed as a sign that labor is about to ensue, read on.

How To Recognize The Signs Of Labor

There are several signs of labor and you may experience all, some or perhaps only one. As with your pregnancy, you’ll find that the onset of your labor is as individual as you are. The more common symptoms of early labor are:

  • Waters breaking
  • Contractions
  • A ‘show’
  • Pain or pressure in the lower back

Many women tend to break their waters. This is something I’ve never experienced, so do be aware it doesn’t happen to everyone. When your waters break, you’ll know – you’ll feel a relief of pressure around your uterus and of course you’ll be rather wet. If your waters do break and you begin to contract almost immediately (strong, regular), you should consider this as a sign that you've probably entered into the first stage of labor.

Labor Contractions

Signs Of Labour

Contractions are another of the more common signs of labour. Some may experience them without their waters breaking – like I did – but once you’re contractions become regular, strong and start to come closer together – it’s a good time to call the hospital.

Third on the list is what’s called a ‘show’. This in itself is not always a sign that your labor will follow close behind - though it does happen on occasion. A show is simply the mucus plug that’s sealed your cervix (during pregnancy) and it will appear as a slightly bloody disharge. As you approach the last days or your pregnancy, your cervix prepares for the impending birth of your baby by way of softening up, thus the ‘plug’ naturally falls away.

The fourth on the signs of labor list can be lower back pain. This is something that was common in all of my pre-labor symptoms. A low, dull back pain - that increased in intensity prior to my going into labour proper.

Less Common Signs Of Labor

Other Signs Of Labor

Increased Braxton Hicks, diarrhoea and a lightening / caused by the baby fully engaging in preparation for birth.
Increased Braxton Hicks, diarrhoea and a lightening / caused by the baby fully engaging in preparation for birth.

There are less common signs of labor and they’re usually viewed as being a sign that the early stages of labor may be a day or two away – including the aforementioned ‘normal’ symptoms. One of them is what’s known as a ‘lightening’. Not to be confused with electrical storms, this is when your baby finally engages (into your cervix) and you feel an overall lightening around your upper body i.e. you can breathe easier overall.

Another sign is diarrhoea. I went through this rather unpleasant symptom twice. Basically, your bowels have a good old clear out – whether you like it or not. The first time this happened to me I genuinely though I’d eaten something I shouldn’t. However, I went into labor within 12 hours of it starting – therefore the second time I realised what was happening. And like I said … it was disagreeable, though manageable.

You may also notice that you have more Braxton Hicks than is usual. If you do – keep an eye on things in case they start to become regular or increase in strength.

When You Should Call Your Midwife/Doctor

You should have been well informed of the signs of labor and what to expect by your midwife and/or doctor during your pregnancy. The best thing to do, if you’re unsure is to call and talk to someone that can give you the advice that you’re seeking. Many midwives can make a pretty good decision, based upon your overall health during your pregnancy - whether it was trouble free or not for e.g. – and from the signs/symptoms that you will relay to them.

Trust their advice – and everything should be fine. However you should also rely on your own instincts. If you feel something is ‘not right’ or as it should be, you’re unusually worried or alarmed – then simply go in person. You won’t be the first that has done so and will be far from the last. Most of us are perfectly fine once we’ve spoken to a midwife and relish an extra few hours at home.



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    • LarasMama profile image

      LarasMama 8 years ago from a secret location, Australia

      Great guide. Two things you didn't mention - nesting & losing the plug.

      I went into labour with my first girl a week overdue - with NO signs at all. My first two contractions were two minutes apart and I didn't have a show, lose my plug or break my waters till I was in labour!

    • profile image

      puffxcore____x 8 years ago

      With my son, Chance. I didn't really feel any signs of labor till they broke my water. But all went well. He was born at 8:36pm on May 22nd, 2009 weighting in at 6lbs 15ozs and 19ins long. :)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      loveofnight - congratulations! I hope all goes well :)

      Profound - you may well ne right. My children were allborn a little different one. My second one put in little (perceived) effort, literally slid into the world and promptly fell asleep. He remains able to slide through life with ease (and little effort!) and falls asleep at the drop of a hat - 20 years later :)

      Awesome - hey lol thankyou very much!

    • Awesome Writer profile image

      Awesome Writer 8 years ago

      Wow, love how you put this hub together with pictures. The information is also great.

    • TheProfoundIdiot profile image

      TheProfoundIdiot 8 years ago from between homes

      Very informative... I've heard many a story of other peoples' labors, and each one seems to be its own unique experience. Perhaps the child inside brings some of his/her own personality to the labor....

    • loveofnight profile image

      loveofnight 8 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      i'll be a new grand-mom this year, can't wait til it's my daughter's time to drop my new grand son.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      lol wesley that was a little TMI! But thankyou anyway and I'm glad all turned out well :)

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      I was so scared both times my wife went into labor. I have to admit that it was my fault though as I induced her both times, not telling how though :) This is a great hub series.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Bing - you're correct :) I pretty much knew I was in labor from the point it became painful!

      BC - lol quick, get to the hospital ... you may be giving birth to a new hub hehe :)

    • profile image

      BadCo 8 years ago

      Dammit I hate missing out but I am having sympathy pains, deff love this whole series FD, pure genius !

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      one of the signs of labor is when it comes in regular frequency like every hour, or every 30 mins pain.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Helen - my googness ... how many?! I have four under my belt and that was enough for me :) It's not the doing it again, it's what happens to your body that kinda put me off having more. Selfish I know but damn it's hard to put everything back after a 9 month pregnancy!

    • Helen Cater profile image

      Helen Cater 8 years ago from UK

      Gosh I have been here so many times and had so many false alarms. Informative and helpful article, thanks.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Trudy - thankyou :) I hope this helps her. I know I was hopeless with my first baby. I wish her the best of luck - and a gorgeous baby when it's all over :)

    • profile image

      TrudyVan 8 years ago

      Hello there Frogdropping, TrudyVan here,

      Really cool hub I sent the link to my daughter who is due the end of the month. Thank for the great information

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Aw Lily I'm with you. I loved having my children. Not so much children now but you know what I mean. And you have such a lovely name by the way :)

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 8 years ago from East Coast

      Great info - makes me glad I'm done having babies, but also kind of makes me miss being pregnant!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      aj - good, that was my aim :)

    • aj's profile image

      Abhijith Bob Babu 8 years ago from Saskatchewan, Canada

      Hey you have explained it breifly in a good way... i enjoyed reading this hub.


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