Changes women experience like increased vaginal discharge, intense body aches; increased urination are some of the many symptoms before labor begins.
These symptoms are signals that the body is preparing really hard for labor. They also help prepare the woman and get her ready, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and in any way possible for a smooth delivery and postpartum.
This post explains 12 symptoms before labor that women may experience. Though pre-labor symptoms vary from woman to woman, these 12 symptoms are generally what most women will experience before labor begins.
We shall also talk about how women feel when they experience these symptoms and ways they could cope with them. Let’s get started by talking a bit about labor.
The Journey Of Pregnancy
A pregnant woman’s body undergoes marked changes from the onset of conception throughout pregnancy and delivery. These changes are due to the body’s adjustments to accommodate the growing infant.
The differences show signs and symptoms, which cause changes in behavior, eating habits, and lifestyle patterns.
The symptoms usually differ with every stage and trimester of pregnancy, and when it’s time for labor, the body begins preparing again in readiness for the work ahead for a successful delivery.
What Is Labor?
Labor is the continuous rhythmic contractions of the uterus, which causes the cervix’s dilation (opening) and effacement (thinning).
Labor helps the fetus move out through the birth canal and leads to the baby’s birth. This whole process occurs around the 37th to 42nd week of pregnancy.
What Causes Labor To Begin?
It is not usually known the exact cause of Labor. But researchers believe that when the baby is ready to be born, an influx of hormones is released by the fetus, causing the cervix to start dilation and effacement.
What Happens Before Labour?
The body will undergo a preparatory phase for the “Big day in the last few weeks before Labor.” Through scan, you may have an estimated date of delivery (EDD).
Your EDD will give you an insight into when the baby is born, but scans are not 100% accurate as only about 5% of babies are born on their actual due date.
So, expect labor to start two weeks before or two weeks after the due date. During the preparatory phase of labor, there are changes in hormonal secretion, leading to changes in readiness for the baby’s birth.
The body secretes more mucus to lubricate the walls of the vagina leading to an increase in vagina discharge.
Also, the baby’s position changes and the head faces towards the cervix; this is called “lightening.” Lightening can make you feel the baby’s weight around the pelvis region.
The added weight can press on the bladder, causing frequent urination.
Women also experience more Braxton Hicks contractions to prepare them for the actual labor contractions that are to come. Let’s see some other notable symptoms a few days before delivery
12 Symptoms Before Labor Begins
Below are some signs you might experience before delivery:
- Increased Braxton Hicks’s contractions
- Loss of the mucus plug
- Urinary Incontinence
- No additional weight gain
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Nesting instinct
- General body pains
Let’s discuss these symptoms before labor begins in great details below for more insight.
1. The Baby Drops
One noticeable symptom before labor begins is a distended pelvis. This is when the once protruded belly bump drops, facing downwards towards the legs.
The distended pelvis is also called lightning. During lightning, as the woman’s body prepares for labor, the baby is also preparing to come out.
The baby gradually changes position, and the head moves down in the direction of the cervix. Not all women may notice lightning.
Some women only notice it a day or two before Labor. Lightning can change the woman’s movement, making her walk like she is waddling.
It also causes tiredness and weakness because more weight is felt on the legs. The woman may also feel breathless when she walks a short distance.
As an upside, lightning will minimize the heartburn that some women face during pregnancy. As the baby’s position changes, it can also cause extra weight and pressure in the pelvic area.
This causes increased urination because the baby’s head pushes against the bladder. Of course, this symptom can be discomforting, but brace up because soon you will be done with this phase and be back to your usual self again.
It would help if you wear comfy shoes that can carry your weight; so that you do not put too much strain on your legs and feel more comfortable when working.
‘Fatigue is a more noticeable symptom before Labor begins.
Though some women are very active during the last days of pregnancy, most women complain of tiredness, exhaustion, and general body pain even when they have not done any strenuous activity.
Women also sleep more often than before. This is also another way the body prepares itself for the work ahead.
It is vital that you rest but do not oversleep because you feel you need to rest. You may become too lazy to do much.
You also need to keep active to strengthen your muscles, aid your metabolism and help the baby to keep active.
Excessive naps during the day may also alter your sleep pattern, and you may find it hard to sleep early at night. It is advisable not to sleep a few hours before bedtime.
Take naps earlier In the day, like in the morning and noon rather than early evening. Also, engaging in one or two exercises before bedtime or some household chores can help you sleep faster, but remember, do not overwork yourself.
3. No Additional Weight Gain
Though some women do not notice this, you should know that one of the symptoms before Labor begin is a steady weight or decrease in weight.
A noticeable increase in weight is expected in pregnancy. In the first trimester, a woman may add two to four pounds.
In the second and third trimesters, the weight gain is more because of the additional demand for nutrients by the rapidly growing fetus when the baby has fully developed the organs needed to survive.
Before the onset of labor, a woman may lose about one to three pounds due to reduced amniotic fluid, reduced cravings, frequent urination, and diarrhea.
Though the baby still gains some weight, the mother’s weight may drop or remain steady.
A regular prenatal check-up is vital to help a pregnant woman monitor her weight and that of her baby during pregnancy.
(It is appropriate to monitor weight before birth and know if you have a healthy pregnancy. Your midwife or OB/GYN will tell you if you are in the ideal weight range or not.
4. Increased Vaginal Discharge
Generally, women release more vaginal discharge during labor. As a symptom before labor begins, she may experience more increase in vaginal discharge.
As the body is preparing for labor, changes occur. Increased vaginal discharge helps lubricate the birth canal before labor.
It makes it easier to push the baby out. You may notice a thick and mucus-like discharge as clear as vaginal discharge.
If the discharge is watery and tinged with blood, it means you are losing the mucus plug, which is another symptom before Labor begins that we shall discuss below.
You should take proper care of your vagina and perineum more often than before, as the increased vagina discharge can cause unease, irritation, and infection if not cleaned properly.
Keep the area clean and dry by regular washing and drying. Change undies frequently, and wear breathable cotton or other comfy fabrics as undies.
It is not a normal sign if the vaginal discharge is heavy enough to soak a pant liner. It would be best if you let your care provider know about this.
The discharge should also not have a foul or fishy smell. All these are not good signs.
5. Loss Of The Mucus Plug
As mentioned earlier, loss of the mucus plug is another symptom before Labor begins that women experience.
The loss of the mucus plug also called the bloody show, is a sign that the cervix has started dilation and effacement.
The mucus plug is a protective barrier enclosing the cervix, preventing bacteria and other microorganisms from getting into the cervix.
When labor is near, dilation of the cervix occurs, leading to disintegration and loss of the mucus plug (also called bloody show).
If a woman experiences loss of the mucus plug, it might not mean that she is going into labor the next hour or the next day.
As I earlier mentioned, it is just a sign that the body is preparing for labor. Though, if you notice that the mucus plug becomes more copious, accompanied by contractions, it may be that Labor has started.
6. Increased Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are the tightening and relaxation of the belly bump, preparing the body for Labor. They are also called “false contractions.”
From the late second trimester to the third trimester, many women will begin to feel a painless tightening around the belly bump, which relaxes after a few seconds.
Braxton Hicks contractions are not accompanied by pains and abdominal cramps, unlike actual labor contractions. Though labor contractions increase with time, Braxton Hick’s contractions reduce after a few seconds.
To learn more about Labor and Braxton Hicks, read the post “How Does Contractions Feel” here. Increased Braxton Hicks contraction is usually a symptom before Labor begins.
If you used to experience them once or twice a week, you might start experiencing them every other day of the week. You do not need to worry when you experience Braxton Hick’s contractions.
As long as the contractions are painless, are not accompanied by loss of blood, and do not intensify with time, you are safe.
Changing positions by walking, standing or lying, or rubbing the belly bump will help ease the tightening.
7. Breast Size Increases
In the same way, you will add some weight around your arms and hips during pregnancy; the breast will also increase in size.
Early pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness and breast sensitivity follow up with increasing breast size throughout pregnancy.
You may have added an extra two pounds to breast size by the end of the gestation period. The breast will become heavier, and some women may start leaking colostrum.
Colostrum is the first breast milk the body produces for the body. It is packed full of anti-infective properties, fats, and other nutrients for the newborn infant.
To handle the increased breast size and leaking as symptoms before labor begins, you can help ease breast heaviness by wearing a firm, supportive bra during pregnancy.
Go for bras made with comfy materials that are not too tight. Underwire bras, though firm, may not be a good choice as they cause red marks under the breast.
You can choose other types of bras to avoid bra soreness. If you experience leaking, you can wear a cotton breast pad inside your bra to prevent breast milk from spilling into your clothes.
Maximize breast care by wearing clean bras and cleaning under the breasts, the nipple, and armpit so that dirt does not breed there.
8. Frequent Urination
Now that the baby has grown so big when it gets close to your due date, the head will position gradually into the cervix ( the cephalic position).
The Baby’s weight may press down on some pelvic organs like the bladder, pelvic bone, etc. The increased pressure on the bladder can cause the woman to urinate more frequently, especially at night.
Some women may even find it hard to hold their pee and could have leaks. It is advised that pregnant women use the bathroom immediately after feeling a slight urge to pee.
If you wait too long, it may become difficult to hold down the wee when the pressure becomes too much on the bladder.
To avoid too much urination at night, avoid taking too much fluid before bed as you may constantly wake up to wee at night, which could disrupt your sleep.
Wearing panty liners can also help hold small leaks. Proper hygiene of the vagina and perineum is needed. Do not wear too tight clothes or non-breathable fabrics, which may prevent air from getting “down there.”
If you notice itching or burning pains while urinating, it may signify a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Do well to alert your caregiver about this for appropriate treatment.
This could be a sign before Labor begins for some women. Diarrhea can occur as a result of changing hormonal influx.
The increased hormonal level of prostaglandin helps soften the cervix while preparing it for labor, but the downside is that it may cause the woman to use the loo more frequently.
It would be wise to watch the foods you eat. Sugary foods may cause increased Diarrhea.
Since it is normal to experience this in some women, you do not have to worry about this symptom, but if your stool is more than five times a day, you should talk to your caregiver about this.
As it could cause you to become very weak, dehydrated and lose electrolytes. Ensure you take fluids and rest if you stool frequently.
This is also another frequently observed symptom before labor begins in many women. As the big day draws near, the weight of the baby increases, and as such, you will feel more pressure in the back.
This results in aches and soreness around the pelvis and hips because the ligaments lose up as the body prepares for labor.
The discomfort you feel will be overwhelming, and you may feel like you can’t carry on with the pregnancy anymore, but stay strong.
Soon you will be holding your little bundle in your arms. To feel relief with backaches, sit on a chair with a back and armrest and always rest your back on it, sitting straight up.
Use a firm and sturdy mattress to hold your weight and straighten your bones when you sleep. You can also use the pregnancy body pillow, a unique pillow that supports the back and waist when sleeping.
Also, try a massage. Massage will help a lot to help you feel relief from the aches. Your partner could help you with this. Or you may get a licensed physical therapist for a professional job.
Also, avoid wearing high-heeled shoes often; they would put more strain on the back and waist. Instead, opt for comfortable shoes that bear your weight so that you won’t feel too much weight on your feet.
You can also use heating pads for massage or pain relief medications like Acetaminophen, but be sure to get a prescription from your doctor.
Towards the tail end of pregnancy, women may feel more clumsy, tired, and forgetful than usual and I experienced this.
I recall getting quickly tired and more forgetful than usual when I was close to my due date. There were times when I would completely forget that I was going somewhere and sleep off.
I had a funny experience. A week and some before I gave birth, I was doing some last-minute shopping before my baby’s arrival – learn more on what to do before Baby arrives here – I forgot my purse and cell phone at one of the shops where I bought a lotion.
I had some cash in my bag, so I didn’t notice it wasn’t with me when heading back home. After taking a taxi home and putting out all I had bought, I noticed I didn’t see my purse and cell phone.
Tiredly, I had to check back at different places I shopped. At the shop where I left the purse, the owner smiled when she saw me.
She said she tried calling me when I left the purse, but she couldn’t reach me. I was so thankful. Many pregnant women must have had one or two similar clumsy experiences during pregnancy.
Women may feel clumsy at the tail-end of pregnancy because of the extra weight of the baby, body aches, extra stress, and imbalance because of the extended belly bump.
To deal with this symptom, try not to overwhelm yourself with too many activities. Please ask for help when you need to; you can’t do it all. People are very willing to help pregnant women, so use the advantage.
Work with schedules to keep you goal-oriented and more productive. This is something I didn’t start using on time, and it affected me when I gave birth.
12. The Nesting Instinct
The nesting instinct is last on my list of symptoms before labor begins. The Nesting instinct is that feeling of unease that women get before delivery.
If you have had a child before, you may remember how it felt a few days before you gave birth. With a nesting instinct, you have this nudge to make everything perfect before the baby comes.
This is the nesting instinct. It is what gives some women that extra burst of energy to ensure that everything is in a “tip-top” shape.
It also causes women who have not completely prepared for the baby to feel very anxious and not ready. I started feeling the nesting instinct in my early third trimester.
It made me get everyone in my home to prepare my baby’s nursery. And though I had everything set and ready, I still had to rearrange things and change my baby’s first wear severally till I was close to labor.
It’s normal to feel the nesting instinct but try not to let the feeling overwhelm you. If you are not prepared for the basic things you need during and after birth, gets assistance to be ready soon enough.
Note that as much as you feel the energy and try to fix everything in place before delivery, do not overwork yourself. It would be best if you were less stressed, strong, and energetic now because labor is near.
Much has been said about the symptoms before labor begins. I believe you have learnt one or two valuable info and tips.
Rest is essential now, as well as eating healthy. You will also feel more anxious about Labor when your due date is near; avoid over-thinking because you got this!
Don’t forget to share with other expectant moms!