Labor marks the end of pregnancy and the start of motherhood. It’s what every mom-to-be is excited yet nervous about. It’s natural to worry about labor and look for signs that give you an idea of when it would start. Though the exact timing of labor is difficult to predict, a few telltale signs can tell if labor is 24-48 hours away or a few days or a week away. Some of these signs may even start appearing around 37 weeks or 38 weeks of pregnancy.
While some signs of labor are correct indicators of the approaching labor, other ‘signs’ are mere myths or old wives’ tales passed down generations. This article will help you identify the signs which indicate that labor is near as well as put your mind at ease when it comes to common myths.
Six Telltale Signs That Labor is 24 to 48 Hours Away
Baby drop or lightening
When you’re closer to your due date, the body starts to prepare for labor and the position of the baby changes. The baby moves downwards, and the little one’s head settles in the pelvis. When this happens, the shape of your baby bumps also changes, and it becomes visibly lower.
So what does it feel like when the baby drops?
Usually, it relieves the pressure on your chest and abdomen, making it easier to breathe, enjoy a larger meal and experience lesser heartburn. Though, you may have to deal with more frequent backaches as pressure on the lower back increases.
Baby dropping is one of the early signs of labor, so when it happens, labor is likely to follow in the coming weeks or even days.
The cervix starts to open gradually during the ninth month of pregnancy. This process is called dilation. In fact, this can be considered a sure shot sign that labor is only hours or days away.
This process starts a few days before labor begins for some women, and others only experience it a couple of hours before birth. The day before labor, usually you’d be 2-3 cm dilated. If your doctor confirms this, then there is a good chance that labor is about 24-48 hours away.
Change in vaginal discharge
Usually, vaginal discharge is white, but if you’re in your ninth month of pregnancy, it can be of a different color and may also change in texture and consistency.
It’s normal to have pinkish or slightly blood-tinged discharge. You may also notice the loss of your mucus plug (which protects the cervical opening). Once this happens, you can safely assume that labor is a few days away.
Diarrhea can also be a sign of labor. When you approach your due date, it is normal to experience loose stools. This is because your body produces a hormone called prostaglandin as it gets ready for labor. This hormone not only makes the cervix softer but also affects bowel movements.
This is nature’s way of clearing out the lower bowel. Though, if you are experiencing diarrhea, just ensure that you stay hydrated. If there are any other symptoms like fever or intense stomach pain, speak to a physician to ensure that everything is okay.
The fluid-filled amniotic sac usually breaks after you start having contractions; however, it can also happen before contractions start in some cases.
‘How do I know if my water broke?’
It’s different for everyone. It may feel like something is leaking, a sudden ‘pop’ or an all-out splash of water. If you’re unsure, it’s important to stay calm, speak to your physician or midwife and follow their guidance.
The sure-shot way of predicting the timing of labor is contractions. When real labor starts, contractions become progressively closer, last longer, and are more intense. One way to know if the contractions are real is that any movement or exercise won’t relieve the contractions.
Remember, when the contractions are regular and strong and are 4-5 minutes apart, it’s important to call your midwife or doctor. These are some of the signs that help you ascertain if you’re about to go into labor.
Some other signs that may indicate that you are about to go into labor:
- Cramps, pelvic pressure and lower back pain
Some women describe labour contractions as intense menstrual cramps. These contractions result in a feeling of pelvic pressure and lower abdominal and back pain.
- Losing your Mucus plug
Losing your mucus plug can be an indicator of pre-labour. Other signs of labour can accompany it. A woman will need to monitor herself for other signs such as cramping, pelvic pressure, contractions and membrane rupture. The mucus can vary in color and consistency. It can be transparent or pinkish, or red. It is also referred to as a ‘bloody show’, and a woman can lose the mucus plug a few weeks, days or hours before going into labor.
- Weight loss
A few days before labor, a woman can lose 1-3 pounds of weight. This usually occurs due to loss of excess water weight or increased urination.
- Loosening of joints
The joints in the lower pelvis and lower back may relax due to the release of relaxin; a hormone released a few days before a woman goes into labour.
- A sudden burst of energy or extreme fatigue
Some women may experience a sudden burst of energy towards the end of pregnancy. However, the time duration can vary, and some women tend to experience it within the last few days while others experience it several months before they are due to deliver. Another possibility is experiencing extreme fatigue, which can occur during early pregnancy, but may prevail throughout pregnancy or can occur on and off. Therefore, both these signs are not very specific indicators of labor.
While the signs mentioned above can indicate that labor is near, there are other signs which may not be true indicators of the timing of labor. So, if you are experiencing any of the following ‘signs,’ you don’t need to be worried about on-set of labor because of these alone.
Nesting is the overwhelming urge to prepare your home and your surroundings for the arrival of your new baby. So does nesting mean that labor is near, or is it a sign of labor? Well, not necessarily. It just means that your maternal instincts are kicking in, and you want to ensure that the home is ready for the little one.
Though nesting instinct is the strongest towards the end of your pregnancy, it does not guarantee that labor is approaching.
Experiencing Gas / Bloating.
Many first-time mothers wonder if gas is a sign that labor is approaching. This is usually because gas can easily be confused with early contractions.
An easy way to differentiate gas from contractions is that it will not follow a regular pattern. If it comes and goes and is not accompanied by other true signs of labor, the chances are that labor is not approaching soon. So when you experience gas, try to relax and think back to what you’ve eaten. It could just be the cauliflower rice you’ve eaten.
What is silent labor?
Silent labor occurs when the woman is unaware that she is in labor. For example, the woman may be experiencing labor contractions, but she doesn’t feel its pain. Often, such women are already dilated when examined by their doctor, but they do not have any apparent signs of labor.
How can you tell if the baby is coming early?
Persistent backaches, frequent contractions, increased vaginal discharge or bleeding, increased pressure in the pelvis, vomiting or diarrhea are some indicators of early labor.
How long were you nauseous before labor?
Waves of nausea have been reported by women a few days before going into labor. This is usually attributed to hormonal changes at the end of the pregnancy.
Do you have more questions about signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away?
Every pregnancy is unique, so, understandably, you may have more questions about signs that labor is 24-48 hours away. This is why our doctors are available online 24/7 to help you understand and analyze your situation and provide a course of action.
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