Thanks to Hollywood, many people feel that the signs of labor should always be dramatic—such as the mom-to-be looking down mid-sentence at her significant other and gasping as she realizes that her water finally broke and that the baby is ready to arrive.
This isn’t always true though since labor symptoms can actually be pretty subtle in some women, making it hard for moms-to-be to distinguish between whether it’s time to head to the hospital or if it might be another day or two.
For example, my mom always said that during her pregnancy with me, she knew the night before that labor was going to start soon because she couldn’t sleep at all. She kept my poor father up for hours with her constant tossing and turning because she just felt so uncomfortable, which made it impossible for her to relax enough to drift off to dreamland.
Curious to see if the twinges that are occurring are a giant red flag that a baby is ready to make their grand entry into the world? The following is a compilation of all the symptoms of labor, both subtle and dramatic.
20 The Baby Bump Drops A Few Inches
Baby Gaga points out that another telltale sign of impending labor is when the baby drops a few inches. It's as if the pregnant woman's “bump” moves down a bit and now doesn't sit as high.
When a woman’s abdomen lowers, it’s actually the baby’s way of preparing to go through the process of labor sometime in the recent future. In most cases, it is easy to see when the baby “drops” in the days before labor is due to start as there is a visible change in how the mom carries herself. Some mothers also like to celebrate the occasion by posting pictures of their bumps pre-drop and after on social media.
19 Your Joints Feel Like They Are Getting Looser
One sign that pregnancy is almost over can be frustrating for many mothers since it makes it difficult for them to walk and move around. Babygaga notes that during the final stages, hormones are released that make the mother’s joints feel very loose.
Mothers need to be very careful during this stage, especially with regards to the kind of footwear they don for work or a special occasion like a wedding. After all, no one wants to greet their future baby with an ACE bandage wrapped around their ankle or a dorky-looking band-aid over their pinky toe!
18 You Can't Sleep Very Well
Babygaga writes that another telltale sign is when women feel restless and start tossing and turning at night because no matter what they do, they just can’t get comfortable enough to get some shut-eye.
When pregnancy begins to near its final stage and a mom-to-be finds herself staring at the clock instead of dreaming about the day when she can finally meet her baby, this is a sign that labor is right around the corner.
In general, once the restlessness starts, then labor tends to begin a week or two later, although it varies due to the fact that everyone’s body is different.
17 Feeling As If Every Organ Is Being Squished Into Tight Spaces
Babygaga writes that many mothers know labor is right around the corner due to the fact that it feels as if all their organs are being squished into a very small space. Of course, this is pretty much true since the womb has expanded in order to accommodate the growing fetus.
In turn, this pushes the mother’s stomach, lungs, etc. out of the way so that the little one can safely gestate and have room to move around without the other pesky organs getting in the way. While it is definitely not a fun or comfortable feeling for the momma, it’s a sign that she’s almost ready to welcome her little one to the world.
16 The Mucus Plug Goes Bye-Bye
Babygaga adds that another symptom of impending labor happens when the mom runs to the restroom and realizes that she has finally lost the mucus plug. The mucous plug was literally created by the mother’s body as a way to protect the fetus from bacteria, viruses, etc. It sounds weird, but it’s actually a pretty cool defense mechanism.
The loss of this plug tends to occur at the start of Braxton Hicks contractions and this is a giant red flag for moms-to-be that they should be packing their bags ASAP and preparing to go into labor sooner rather than later.
15 Having To Constantly Go To The Bathroom As If You're Unwell
Babygaga reports that thanks to the upcoming labor, a mother’s internal organs begin to relax. Unfortunately, this usually includes her intestines and winds up giving the already uncomfortable mama a very upset stomach.
This is a perfectly normal pre-labor occurrence and not the sign of a stomach bug, but it is annoying for many mothers to have to keep running to the bathroom every five minutes.
Despite the inconvenience, doctors do not recommend eating light food in the same manner you would if you had a virus that was making you feel ill. Instead, it’s best to ride it out and let nature take its course.
14 Feeling The Urge To Nest
Baby Gaga adds that as the joyful day approaches, mothers may start to “nest.” This can take several forms, including an urge to clean up every single dish, even if they are not unclean or vacuum the entire house or apartment, even if there is not a speck of dust on the floor.
Other mothers skip the cleaning frenzy and attempt to finish whatever project they were working on for the baby’s room, such as knitting their future little one a cozy little blanket to keep them warm. Regardless of how nesting occurs, this is a clear sign that the baby is getting ready to be introduced to the world.
13 Surfactant Is Released
Baby Belly points out that labor often tends to start as the baby’s surfactant production goes into high gear. Surfactant is a substance that looks a bit like soap and it coats the inside of the lungs. Fetuses usually start to begin producing surfactant anywhere from 24 to 28 weeks, and production really increases during week 32 in order to get the lungs used to breathing on their own in the outside world.
There is also a chemical reaction that occurs during the very end of pregnancy when a protein from the surfactant migrates from the baby’s lungs to the uterine wall, causing labor to begin.
12 Feeling Like You Can Breathe Again
The Bump writes that another sign that your little one is ready to be welcomed into the world is when you feel the pressure move from your diaphragm to your pelvis and sometimes even your lower back.
Babygaga adds that this process is known as “lightening” and refers to when the baby starts to shift into position in order to get ready for the birthing process.
The shifting baby means that moms-to-be can breathe just a little bit easier, but now they have to deal with plenty of added pressure on their lower body and that’s just not comfortable for anyone.
11 Your Belly Tightens
Babycenter writes that it is not unusual for many mothers-to-be to feel as if their stomach is tightening during labor.
In some cases, women report that the sensation feels as if their belly is trying to curl itself up into a ball.
Other mothers-to-be didn’t feel that way at all. Instead, they say that it feels more like someone was either squeezing their stomach or their internal organs repeatedly, with the sensations radiating all the way down into their lower body.
Clearly, Mother Nature was half-asleep when coming up with the idea for the process of giving birth to humans.
10 The Water Gush
The Bump points out that Hollywood has given society at large a very unrealistic expectation of the act of a mother’s water gushing, which is the colloquial term for the process of the membranes of the amniotic sacs moving apart.
It is not always a gush of water as popular movies and television would have viewers believe. Sometimes, a water breaking can feel like a simple trickle or as if they have a full bladder and really have to use the bathroom. Not every woman will experience their water breaking.
In fact, science has discovered that only 10 percent of women will witness the membranes breaking.
9 Feeling A Burst Of Energy
My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear points out that before birth, many women might feel a burst of energy that seems at odds with the fatigue and the desire to just relax.
This burst of energy many mothers feel often goes hand-in-hand with nesting and is what allows a mother-to-be to clean their entire house or apartment, knit some adorable baby booties or attempt to organize their little one’s entire wardrobe by color, length or material.
Sadly, this energy boost does not carry over post-pregnancy. It would make a mother’s job a heck of a lot easier if it did though!
8 The Baby's Movements Changes
My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear writes that in the hours or days before labor starts, a mother might notice that there is a bit of a change in her baby’s movements.
For example, a baby that was previously very active and jostling around a good deal while in the womb starts to slow down. On the flip side, a little one that was fairly subdued throughout most of the pregnancy suddenly starts to kick all day, every day.
Both of these are very good signs that you need to start getting prepared for the big day because labor is most likely going to start soon.
7 You're Feeling 10x Tired All Of A Sudden
My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear adds that even though some lucky women might wake up right before labor feeling as if they could successfully climb Mount Everest, other mothers-to-be are not so lucky.
In some cases, moms feel incredibly tired, almost as if they could sleep for an entire month, right before labor starts. It is quite common during pregnancy for mothers to feel pretty exhausted due to the entire process of literally growing another human, but this labor fatigue can be 10 times worse for some mamas than “normal” pregnancy fatigue. To make matters worse, they can’t have any products with caffeine in it and have to struggle to stay awake through sheer willpower.
6 The Pain Keeps You From Speaking
Parents writes that it is time to get to the hospital or birthing center ASAP if you haven’t already checked in by now when the contractions start and are so intense that it makes it difficult for you to speak.
Once you notice that you are in so much pain that you can barely speak and after timing your contractions, you notice they come every four to five minutes over a span of an hour or so, then that’s a surefire way of being able to tell that your little one is readying themselves to make their grand appearance.
5 You Can't Walk Around Easily
Babble notes that mothers can easily tell the difference between the pre-labor Braxton Hicks contractions and the real ones that occur during active labor because with the latter, it is very difficult for them to walk around when it feels like their insides are being turned upside down over and over again.
Braxton Hicks contractions tend to occur more when the mom is sitting down and they ease up with movement, such as walking around. Real contractions are so strong that it makes even simple movement like walking around the room feel like the mom-to-be is running the New York City Marathon.
4 Noticing Some Signs Of Spotting
According to Babygaga, as the impending day of joy approaches, mothers might notice that they start spotting a bit when they run to the bathroom or if they wear any protective liners.
All of this is perfectly normal and definitely not a reason to stress out. The reason why spotting occurs is because the cervix begins to thin out and dilate, it jostles the vessels that are present in the organ. Of course, it’s a good idea to call your doctor if you have any concerns about your spotting --just for your own peace of mind, but be assured that many mothers have gone through the same exact thing.
3 Dilation Begins
Another key sign of labor that pretty much everyone has heard about, writes Babygaga, is when the cervix begins to dilate.
While this is exciting news and does mean that the mom is one step closer to delivery, this process doesn’t always have to start in active labor.
In some cases, dilation can take forever until active labor finally comes around and then things start to speed up pretty rapidly. With other mothers-to-be, dilation starts and then immediately active labor follows. In any case, by this point, most moms are in a hospital or a birthing center preparing to meet their little bundle of joy.
2 The Cervix Begins To Thin Out
It really is fascinating to see how the human body handles the process of labor. Babygaga notes that right before it is time for the little bundle of joy to enter the world, the mother’s cervix begins to thin out. This part of her body is usually pretty thick, but it starts to soften as the due date becomes imminent.
As the projected due date draws closer, it is common for doctors to examine the mom-to-be and give her an exact number as to how many centimeters she is dilated, so she’ll know if labor is right around the corner or if she’ll have to wait another day or two.
1 The Cervix Softens
Today’s Parent adds that not only does the cervix start to thin out right before labor, but this organ also gets softer too. Pre-pregnancy, this part of the body is usually pretty thick and points to the back of the woman’s body.
Somewhere around weeks 37 to 42 of pregnancy, the cervix starts to grow softer in preparation for labor and actually shifts a bit further forward so that the future bundle of joy can have an easy transition from the comfort of the womb to the wonderful outside world. Second-time mothers tend to have it easier, as this part of their body is already a bit softer and opened up a bit more after the birth of their first child.