There are several signs can indicate the start of labor, including many physical changes that occur as your body prepares for delivery.
Congratulations mama, you’re in the home stretch! If you’re like most pregnant people, at this point in time you’re probably feeling all the things: excitement, nerves, fatigue… and SO over being pregnant.
But since labor differs for every woman, what you experience in the final hours of pregnancy might be different from what another pregnant person experiences.
Although you can’t predict the day and hour of labor, you can watch for signs that delivery is nearing. Here’s what you can expect when labor is 24 to 48 hours away:
One obvious sign indicating the start of labor is your water breaking, or more specifically, the rupture of your amniotic sac. This fluid-filled sac protects your baby as it grows and develops, but it will rupture in preparation for the delivery, either naturally or artificially by your doctor.
When your water breaks naturally, it’s likely due to your baby’s head putting increased pressure on the sac.
Some women experience a gush of water, but water breaking isn’t always as dramatic as it’s depicted on television. Some women only notice a trickle of water or a feeling of wetness in their underwear.
The mucus plug is a thick collection of mucus that seals the opening of the cervix. This stops bacteria from entering your uterus, but once labor nears, this plug loosens and drops out.
Some women drop a glob of mucus in the toilet after using the restroom, whereas others notice mucus on their underwear or while wiping after urinating.
The color of the mucus varies from clear to pink, and it can also contain traces of blood — but don’t be alarmed. This is completely normal and known as the “bloody show.”
Losing the mucus plug is your body‘s way of getting ready to deliver. It’s possible to lose the mucus plug weeks before going into labor, but it often happens days or hours before labor.
As an expecting mother, you might not expect any weight loss until after delivery. But it’s not uncommon to lose 1 to 3 pounds of weight 1 to 2 days before going into labor.
This isn’t fat loss, though. Instead it’s your body shedding excess water weight. It can happen due to less amniotic fluid toward the end of your pregnancy, and increased urination as your “baby drops” in preparation for labor.
The baby moving to a lower position puts added pressure on your bladder, resulting in more frequent trips to the bathroom.
You might start cleaning, organizing, setting up the nursery, and making sure everything is just perfect. But about 24 to 48 hours before labor, your body might go into panic mode, in which case you have a sudden burst of energy and an increased drive to clean and organize.
Some expecting mothers obsess over their hospital bag, rearrange their nursery, or commit to making sure that they remove every trace of dust from their home.
Back pain is common during pregnancy due to joints and ligaments naturally loosening in preparation for labor. But while you should expect some aches during pregnancy, pre-labor back pain is different and more uncomfortable.
When labor is 24 to 48 hours away, pain might worsen in the lower back and radiate to your pelvis area. Changing position doesn’t provide relief, and unfortunately, the pain often remains until after delivery.
Braxton Hicks contractions, or false labor pains, can start weeks or months before actual labor. They occur as your uterine muscles prepare for delivery. But while these contractions are uncomfortable, they’re typically milder than actual labor contractions and only last a few seconds.
Real contractions, on the other hand, are stronger in intensity, more frequent, and can last longer than a minute. When contractions start to occur every 4 to 5 minutes, you can expect labor within 1 to 2 days.
Toward the end of your pregnancy you’ll have weekly checkups, where your doctor will check your cervix to see how far you’ve dilated.
Dilation refers to the cervix opening so that the baby can pass through the birth canal. Although the cervix needs to dilate at least 10 centimeters for a vaginal delivery, cervical dilation of at least 2 to 3 centimeters often indicates that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
The end of a pregnancy signals your body to release more of the hormone relaxin, which loosens your joints and ligaments in preparation for delivery.
A few days before labor, you may notice looser, more relaxed joints in your pelvis and lower back. You might also experience an unexpected side effect of relaxin — diarrhea. This can happen as the muscles around your rectum relax.
The last month of pregnancy is a time of mixed emotions. It’s part excitement and part anticipation as you wait for your baby to make their appearance.
Labor is something you can’t predict. But if you pay attention to your body, it’ll provide clues that you’re one or two days away from your newest adventure.