Being a future mother, especially in the last few months before labor, can be stressful and demanding, primarily because many women do not have enough information on the early signs of labor and the first symptoms which might occur. 

Going into labor is defined as the last stage of pregnancy. The body endures a series of progressive contractions of the uterus to help the cervix dilate and aid the baby in moving through the birth canal. It is said that there are three stages of labor: contractions, pushing, and delivery. 

Although every women’s experience is unique when it comes to going into labor, it is still possible to create a comprehensive list of signs and early symptoms which indicate that the beginning of labor is approaching. After the early signs have been detected, some additional indicators occur in the moments before labor starts. 

What Are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Labor?

Young Pregnant Woman, Having Painful Contraction, Starting Labor, Sitting on the Couch

In order to elevate some of the stress and confusion due to countless different information one can find today on the Internet, we have created a list of signs women can track to recognize and prepare themselves for bringing their baby into the world. It is also important to note that these symptoms can start from more than a month prior to labor to just a few hours before.

  • Pelvic pressure: your infant will find its position by descending into your pelvis some weeks prior to the labor (some women experience this only during actual labor), usually with its head down, preparing to exit the birth canal, and this might cause pressure, and low back pains;
  • Cramps: resembling menstrual cycle cramps, these will occur every so often, followed by some pain and discomfort because they are usually defined as the beginning of mild contractions;
  • Fatigue: you have been carrying a child for months, so the body is exhausted and in need of rest. It is not easy to find a comfortable position for sleeping, and sleep is of the utmost importance in order to prepare for birth;
  • Bursts of energy: if not tired, then some women have a sudden need to organize and clean everything before their baby arrives, and scientists have been explaining this as the ‘nesting syndrome’ in women wanting their babies to arrive as soon as possible;
  • Loose stool: the body is emptying the bowels in order to create space for the uterus to contract and accommodate the baby;
  • Ligaments are loose: one of the relaxing early signs of labor is that the joints on the body become more relaxed and loose, which helps the whole body feel more relaxed in welcoming the baby;
  • Cervix dilation and change in vaginal discharge: as your whole body is preparing for the birth, including your cervix – it will start to dilate and thin out. As far as the vaginal discharge goes, you will be able to see some changes in the color and its consistency.

And now, you are probably thinking – if all of these are early signs, what are the ‘real’ signs of going into labor, how will I know when to get up and go?

Going Into Labor – The ‘Real’ Signs

As women are approaching the date of bringing their child into the world, the symptoms of labor slowly change and can mostly be listed as follows:

  • Frequent, high-intensity contractions: women are often advised to look out for three points during their contractions – how strong they are, are they evenly distributed over time, and how long they last. Contractions usually last from 30 to 70 seconds. They are evenly spaced out and more and more frequent and stronger as the birth approaches. There are also so-called false contractions, which can be recognized by their irregularity, mildness and one may stop them by changing their position;
  • Mucus plug loss: the mucus plug on the cervix helps safeguard your baby from outside influences, and it is redundant when the child’s birthing process begins, it breaks, and this is often referred to as ‘the bloody show.’ It occurs very close to the moment of going into labor;
  • Lower back pain: this is one of the most common signs that the baby is on the way. Although lower back pain is common all throughout the pregnancy, the pain intensifies during childbirth and can also be transferred to the front of the body and the legs;
  • Water breaking: the uterus has hosted the baby in a ‘bag of water’ or the amniotic fluid, and when the bag breaks, that is one of the final symptoms, which shows us that the baby is on its way. Although this is one of the most evident signs shown in popular culture that a woman is about to go into labor, other signs can indicate the labor starting before the rupture of the amniotic fluid.

Preterm or Early Labor

Although for most women, labor starts between the 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy, there are some cases where labor begins too early, and this is referred to as premature, preterm, or early labor. Babies who are born prematurely have a high risk of health issues during birth, including death, but also later during life. There are different ways of confirming early labor, such as pelvic exams, ultrasound, lab tests, and uterus exams, and women are most often advised to contact their doctors as soon as they notice the first signs of premature labor. 

How to Manage Early Symptoms of Labor

Worried Pregnant Woman Feeling Her Belly in a Restaurant.

So, what is the solution to all of these pains, aches, and troubles followed by bringing a child into your life? Here are some tips which might help (at least for a bit):

  • Stay hydrated! Drink a lot of fluids, preferably tea, water, and clear broth, and eat healthy foods in smaller amounts;
  • Try and sleep as much as possible to rest your body from all the tension and stress it is going through with the early symptoms of labor. Naps are also helpful if full nights of sleep are not possible for you at this moment;
  • Have baths, with warm water, in order to relax your whole body and relieve the pressure off your joints;
  • Stay in an upright position because this will help your cervix dilate and your baby position itself;
  • Do breathing exercises and short meditations in order to, again, relax your muscles and mind and calm down your nervous system;
  • Get massages for your lower back;
  • Move around, but not for long periods of time. Walks are good for the body, but be aware of your joints and try not to exhaust yourself.

We Are Here for You!

We know that pregnancy is a true gift, but it can also be a very exhausting, challenging, and overbearing period in a woman’s life. That is why the obstetric specialists in Boca Raton invite you to contact us with whatever questions you might have and the support you might need. We are here for you! 

Dr. Ellman is a Board Certified OBGYN who established his medical practice in South Florida over 25 years ago. His office, Women’s Healthcare of Boca Raton, is located in Boca Raton, Florida at West Boca Medical Center. Dr. Ellman attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, where he received his medical degree. He went on to intern at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston- an affiliate of Harvard Medical School- and continued his residency at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York- an affiliate of Cornell Medical School.

Dr. Ellman has practiced Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Boca Raton area since 1995. In addition to treating patients at West Boca Hospital, Dr. Ellman also treats patients through his own private practice, Women’s Healthcare of Boca Raton, located on the West Boca Medical Campus.

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Published On: June 1st, 2022