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Signs of Labour: How To Know When It’s Time

No one really knows exactly what initiates labor but it is the placenta that determines the timing. It produced the hormone HCG that started pregnancy and now produces a different one corticotrophin-releasing hormone CRH that ends it.

This sets in motion a series of other hormones most notable from the adrenal glands that leads to birth. This unknown timing can cause anxiety for Mothers and we receive so many questions on “how do I know that labour has started”

let me go over some of the emotional and physical changes that a mother’s body goes through that signals labour is near.

In the weeks leading up to labour, you may notice some of the following signs that the main event is not far off:

– increased vaginal discharge

– the nesting instinct:
this sudden urge to clean the house, organise the nursery and scrub the cupboard under the stairs, often occurs in the run up to labour

– Braxton Hicks contractions:
you may have been experiencing these painless, irregular contractions throughout the second half of the pregnancy, but some women report an increase in frequency at the very end of the pregnancy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, these practice contractions may also be stronger and more intense as your body prepares for labour

– lightening:
sometime during the last month of pregnancy, the baby will drop lower and begin to engage for labour. While this doesn’t mean labour will happen immediately, it is a sign that your body is starting to prepare.

As the baby moves further down, you should be able to breathe more easily and may find your heartburn and indigestion reduce

– weight loss:
during the last month of pregnancy, the amount of amniotic fluid starts to decrease so you may notice a reduction in weight gain, or you may even lose weight

As you near your due date, you are probably waiting nervously for signs that labour is about to start.

It’s important to remember that only around five percent of babies are actually born on their due date. Lots of babies are born after their due date, so you may have a couple of weeks of pregnancy left.

Early Labour Signs

If you have never experienced childbirth before, you may be worried about what it feel like.

Many women worry about how they will identify labour, and whether they’ll contact their healthcare provider too early (and be a nuisance) or too late (and end up giving birth in a taxi).

To add to these worries, all too often when women ask questions about how they will know when labour begins, they are told, “Oh, you’ll know!”

Signs of Early Labour Include:

– menstrual cramp-like pain in the lower back or abdominal region
– a bloody show
– waters breaking
– regular contractions
– shivering
– an urge to use the toilet
– moodswings

The only real sign that labour has started, is the onset of regular contractions that cause the cervix to dilate.

That said, there are a few other telltale signs that can indicate that labour is imminent. False labour could be a sign that labour is imminent, as these contractions are thought to cause softening of the cervix in preparation for labour.

Mucus Plug and Show

The mucus plug has been sitting at the entrance of your uterus since the beginning of your pregnancy.

The mucus plug has kept your baby safe from the outside world, creating a sterile environment in your uterus. As your cervix softens and begins to dilate in preparation for the first stage of labour, the mucus plug is dislodged.

This is known as your ‘show’ or ‘bloodstained show’. It is usually a mucus tinged bright red or brown. You may notice it in the form of a heavy vaginal discharge, or you may not notice it at all.

This can occur as soon as six weeks before the birth, although is usually a sign of imminent labour. You should notify your healthcare provider when you lose your mucus plug.

Waters Breaking

Hollywood always seem to depict this as the moment labour begins, although, in reality, most women are already in labour when it occurs. For the women that do experience it before, however, their waters breaking is usually a clear sign that labour will start within 24 hours.

The water is in fact amniotic fluid, which is released when the membranes of the amniotic sac rupture.

The rupture triggers the release of prostaglandins, substances that cause uterine contractions.

You should take note of the time of your waters breaking, because your healthcare provider may ask for this information.

Amniotic fluid should be clear. If, when your waters break, the fluid is stained green, yellow or brown, this could mean that the amniotic fluid contains meconium.

This is your baby’s first bowel movement, and can indicate that the baby is in distress. If your amniotic fluid is discoloured, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.


Some women report involuntary shivering or trembling before the onset of and during early labour.

Some women find this worrying, but try to relax. It is a sign that labour is imminent, so check that your hospital bag is packed and you have everything you need for the birth.

An Urge To Use The Toilet

As your baby gets into position for traveling down the birth canal, his head may press against your bowel. This may give you a sudden urge to visit the bathroom, and can be a sign that labour is fast approaching. Alternatively, your baby may press against your bladder, leaving you in desperate need of a wee.

Your body is just making sure there is enough room for the baby to be born, so expect a few bathroom trips in early labour.

Labour hormones are thought to have an effect on the intestines, causing diarrhea to clear the digestive system and create more room for the baby.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Anecdotally, some women report having a long sleep the night before labour started. While this has not been studied, it could be the body’s way of conserving energy in preparation for childbirth.

Alternatively, it could simply be that you are exhausted after the energy drive of nesting, and need to catch up on your sleep again.


Some women report feelings of restlessness in the days leading up to the birth. This could simply be that they are waiting for labour and are unable to concentrate on much else. Lots of parents are ready for the baby by the due date, and time can seem to slow down for the days following as you wait for labour to start.


Some women report experiencing mood swings, or heightened emotions, just before the onset of labour.

Of course, this could simply be the frustration of waiting for labour, the worry of how labour will feel combining with the sleep difficulties of late pregnancy. However, it may be a sign that labour is approaching.

What Should I Do In Early Labour?

Speak to your healthcare provider when you think labour has started, but it is likely they will encourage you to stay home until your labour is more established.

Making the transfer to hospital can actually slow labour if you are not yet experiencing the contractions of establish labour.

There are a number of things you can do at home during early labour:

– distraction:
try to distract yourself from any discomfort by staying entertained. Watch a film or TV show, read a book, play board games or talk to your partner.

– stay active:
moving around and staying active can help labour to progress. Take a short walk around the block, bounce on your birthing ball or try walking up and down the stairs.

Be careful not to tire yourself out though – chances are, you’ve got a long day ahead of you.

eat and drink: it’s important to stay hydrated during labour, so make sure you are drinking enough water.

Some women find that labour puts them off food, but if you are feeling peckish have a snack or light meal to keep your energy levels up.

rest: try to get some sleep, you’ll need your energy for the marathon ahead. If the contractions are keeping you awake, speak to your healthcare advisor about safe pain relief to take to help you get some sleep. If you can’t sleep, at least rest.

relax: try to stay relaxed and focus on the birth. Having a soak in a warm bath can help you to feel calm about labour, and can ease any discomfort too.

As the contractions intensify, you should utilise any breathing techniques learned during pregnancy. Breathe in as the contraction starts, and then exhale slowly, this technique can help you to stay calm during contractions.

When to go to the hospital, for those of you having a hospital birth:

The first stage of labour can take hours, and research has found that labour progresses better when women are in familiar surroundings.

For this reasons, many hospitals advise women to stay home for as long as possible.

Your healthcare provider will want to speak to you regularly on the phone, to determine when it is time for you to travel to hospital.

As a general rule, when you are no longer able to talk through contractions, and when you have been experiencing contractions lasting at least 45 seconds every five minutes for an hour, you should be heading to hospital.

You should also contact your healthcare provider if:

– your waters break
– you notice a reduction in fetal movements
– you have a fever
– you have a severe headache
– you experience problems with your vision
– you have vaginal bleeding
– you are experiencing signs of labour and are not yet full term

As you wait for labour to begin, make sure you are fully prepared for the baby’s arrival.

Is your freezer stocked up with cooked dinners? Is the house tidy?

Is the car seat unpacked and ready for use? If you are ready for the baby, then enjoy your last few days as a couple before the baby arrives.

Go for walks, eat out, go to the cinema, and enjoy some me-time.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Signs of Labour! If you have any of your own tips or comments please share them in the comments below. For more fun information about your pregnancy and childbirth please subscribe and visit us at

Thanks for Watching.


Share your Thoughts
  • ziyadat abdul rahman

    this is absolute good. I have learnt so much right now. thanks and keep it up

  • ziyadat abdul rahman

    I am 39 weeks now, and very restless. my midwife is saying I should hurry and come and deliver. familys too are anxious to have my baby in their arm. I myself I wish I am done with it. what should I do.

  • E’lexis

    I’m 37 weeks and 2 days but they want me to come in when I’m 38 weeks next week I have real bad back pains an feel alot of pressure below my baby moves none stop an I have to go to the bathroom alot now I stay going to teetee an having to go number 2 more than once as well I’m very Moody an get annoyed quickly an very restless as well my twin boys know something is wrong but they dk what is exactly wrong with me I’m worried I don’t want to b touched an I get mad when it’s filth everywhere or I get very cranky what is going on somebody explain to me please I’m very worried I had a csection with my twins but with this baby I’m holding in me now I’m having a vaginal birth at the hospital please comment or whatever please I have to know about all this an about the baby being on the nerves in both my legs what does that mean? HELPPPP PLEASE!!

  • faye Raymer

    am I going into labour soon
    hi guy am in early labour? or about to go into labour soon? I’m 32 weeks gone and over the last few days I haven’t been able to sleep properly I’m really tired can’t even sleep during the day. feeling uncomfortable and had a scan today and babies head is down . I had a load of braxton hicks yesterday but non today Ive had a runny tummy on and off and been sick a few times in the past week what do u guys think x

  • Helen Tracy Chris Ng

    Hi everyone I dnt know if my Labour is near last week I was cold pain weak feeling dizzy going to toilet my urine is dark brown but nt bleeding only from my nose I hard a really bad headache and I dnt know if i should go to d clinic wat should I do please

    • eva

      Pls contact your health provider


    Dear CAROLINA today morning I felt a slight pinching strong in stomach and easly cramps and I am in seven months of pregnancy


    i wanna know what is EPIDURAL
    wHAT is avantaje and dejavantage

  • Crystal Noble

    Hi, I’m now 37 weeks and 1 day. I’m having really bad back pain and I’m soo restless. Today I was walking with my mom at the public market and i felt like I had something stuck in my chest, like i had to throw up, it hasn’t gone away, and I’m feeling a lot of pressure down in my lower area and back….what should I do?

  • Jessica Parmar

    I’m 38 weeks plus and still no sign of labour apart from my little boy keeps moving around vigorously it seems like he don’t want to come out but I’m getting so tired and restless and agitated that I just want labour to show itself…..I have never experienced actual labour as for my other 2 girls 1st I was induced and then given epidural 2nd I have a planned C-Section so now this is completely different but I’m totally restless….

  • Sareena oriordan

    I’m 37weeks and 4days and I can’t get comfortable sleeping and always tired and I get really bad pains down stairs i’ve seen my health provider and she’s was trying to check me but I wouldn’t let her touch me and she said the head is down and I’m always feeling wet and my baby won’t stop kicking and I’m always in the bathroom