Wouldn't it be great if finding out whether or not you're in labor was as easy as peeing on a stick? Unfortunately, sometimes early labor isn't black and white. Here are the main early labor signs to look for so you can find out whether or not it's the real deal. You may also want to check out these commonly mistaken early labor signs that let you know you're body is getting ready, even if it's not quite labor yet.
The telltale sign of labor is labor contractions. Sometimes, though, contractions can be tricky to figure out. It's not always easy to tell if they are real labor contractions or not.
Most women start feeling contractions days or even weeks before labor.The uterus is like an athlete. It likes to practice. These practice contractions are called Braxton Hicks and don't always indicate imminent labor.
Contrations can be irritating, especially when they are strong enough that you're not sure whether they're real labor contractions or not.
True labor contractions continually get longer and stronger until it's obvious you're in labor. As labor gets going, contractions won't stop when you change activity, and they continue to get closer together over time.
You may notice as you get very close to labor that you have extra vaginal discharge, or maybe some light bleeding. This bleeding is called "bloody show." Usually, this will look like blood tinged discharge, rather than bright red bleeding, or clumps of blood. A common reaction when noticing bloody show during a bathroom break is to freak out a bit and wonder if something's wrong. Don't worry. It's normal to bleed a little bit as your cervix starts to open up. I said a little bit, though. If you're bleeding like a period, or if you're concerned at all for that matter, call your doctor or midwife.
There is a small chunk of mucus that ‘plugs’ up the opening of the cervix. As the cervix starts to soften and dilate, that plug is released. Losing the mucus plug does not mean you are in labor. It does tell you that your body is getting ready, though. Some women lose their mucus plug days or even weeks before labor, and some lose it as labor starts. As with most early labor signs, it doesn’t tell you exactly when labor will start. Click here for the down and dirty on the mucus plug.
Cervix dilation is something that people usually get excited about, hoping it's an early labor sign. If your cervix has begun to dilate, you know labor is on its way, but once again, you don't know when. You can be dilated to 3 cm for a few weeks before going into labor, or you can be not dilated at all and have a baby the same day. If you start having what seem to be labor contractions, and find out you are dilated to 6 cm, then OK, I'd consider that a labor sign. But if you go to your prenatal appointment and find out you're dilated to 3 cm, try not to get too excited because you just never know...
Cervical Effacement refers to the cervix thinning out. The cervix starts out long and hard, and slowly diminishes as labor progresses. The cervix will become 100% effaced before the baby is born. Like cervix dilation, partial effacement may or may not be an early labor sign. You can start labor not being effaced at all, or you can be 50% effaced for a few weeks.
An obvious sign of labor is your water breaking. Usually, water breaking spontaneously (meaning the doctor or midwife doesn’t break it) doesn’t happen until the cervix is almost completely dilated. Sometimes, though, water breaking marks the beginning of labor. When water breaks before labor, usually labor starts soon afterward, and 90% of labors begin within 48 hrs.