The early signs of labour every woman should know

Every woman's labour experience is unique.

Early signs of labour [MonadnockBirth]

Pregnancy is an incredible journey filled with anticipation, excitement, and nervousness. A typical pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks, but it can range from 37 to 42 weeks.

This timeframe is divided into three trimesters, each with its own set of developments. The third trimester, from weeks 28 to 40, is when your body starts gearing up for labour. As your due date approaches, that nervousness might shift towards wondering, "How will I know I'm in labour?"


Labour is the natural process by which your body delivers your baby. It's a beautifully orchestrated sequence of events involving powerful muscle contractions in your uterus (womb) that help push your baby down the birth canal and into the world.

While contractions are the hallmark of labour, there are often subtle hints your body throws your way beforehand. Here are some early signs to keep an eye on:

1. Lightening crotch: This term might sound a bit dramatic, but it describes a sensation of pressure or heaviness in your pelvis as your baby settles lower into your belly. This can happen anywhere from a few weeks to a few hours before labour begins.


2. Braxton Hicks contractions: Don't confuse these with the real labour. Braxton Hicks are practice contractions your uterus experiences throughout pregnancy. They feel like a tightening in your belly and are usually irregular, painless, and go away on their own.

3. Increased cervical changes: Your cervix, the opening to your womb, will start to soften and thin out (efface) in preparation for labour. You won't feel this directly, but your doctor can detect these changes during a check-up or cervical exam.

4. "Show" time: You might experience a discharge of mucus mixed with a little blood. This is caused by the cervix thinning and opening, but it doesn't necessarily mean labour is imminent. It can happen anywhere from days to weeks before delivery.

5. Energy surge or nesting instinct: Some women experience a burst of energy right before labour, often accompanied by a strong urge to clean, organise, and prepare the nursery (nesting). This is your body's way of getting things ready for the arrival of your little one.


Sometimes, your water breaks (your amniotic sac ruptures) before contractions start. This can feel like a gush or trickle of warm liquid. If this happens, contact your doctor or head straight to the hospital, especially if the fluid is anything other than clear or pale yellow. If your water breaks, contact your doctor or midwife right away.

Now that you've recognised the early signs, let's break down the stages of labour itself:


1. Early labour: This stage is characterised by mild to moderate contractions that come and go irregularly, often lasting 20-30 seconds and spaced 5-15 minutes apart. You might experience cramping, backache, or loose stools. This stage can last for hours or even days.

2. Active labour: The party's getting started! Contractions become stronger, longer (lasting 40-60 seconds), and more frequent (occurring every 3-5 minutes). Your cervix will dilate from 4-6 centimetres to 7-8 centimetres. This stage can be the most intense, but it's also when you'll likely start feeling the urge to push.

3. Transition: This is the shortest but often most intense part of labour. Contractions become even stronger and closer together, lasting for up to a minute and occurring every 2-3 minutes. You might experience nausea, vomiting, and chills.

4. Pushing: It's go time! You'll feel an overwhelming urge to push with each contraction. This is where all your practice with deep breathing comes in handy!


5. Delivery: The grand finale! Your baby makes their glorious entrance into the world. The placenta, which has been nourishing your baby, will then be delivered.

Every woman's labour experience is unique. The signs and stages might not unfold exactly as described – and that's okay! Just be familiar with the general process and trust your body.

If you experience any of the early signs of labour, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor or midwife. They can guide you through the process and ensure a safe and positive birthing experience for you and your little one.


This content was created with the help of an AI model and verified by the writer.


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