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 will start. Though the exact timing of labor is difficult to predict, a few telltale signs can tell if labor is 24-48 hours away, a few days, or a week out. Some of these signs may appear around 37 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 indicating that labor is near and put your mind at ease regarding 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. 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. This is a sure sign that labor is only hours or days away.
For some women, this process starts a few days before labor begins, while others only experience it a few hours before birth. The day before labor, usually you’d be 2-3 cm dilated. If your doctor confirms this, 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 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 prepares 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, ensure you stay hydrated. If there are other symptoms like fever or intense stomach pain, speak to a physician to ensure everything is okay.
The fluid-filled amniotic sac usually breaks after you start having contractions; however, it can also happen before contractions begin 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 essential 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.
Call your midwife or doctor when the contractions are regular, strong, and 4-5 minutes apart. These are some of the signs that help you ascertain if you’re about to go into labor.
Other Signs of Labor
Cramps, pelvic pressure, and lower back pain
Some women describe labor contractions as intense menstrual cramps. These contractions result in pelvic pressure and lower abdominal and back pain.
Losing your Mucus plug
Losing your mucus plug can be an indicator of pre-labor. Other signs of labor can accompany it. A woman must monitor for other symptoms, 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 called a ‘bloody show,’ a woman can lose the mucus plug a few weeks, days, or hours before going into labor.
A woman can lose 1-3 pounds a few days before labor. This usually occurs due to the 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 labor.
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 share 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 occur intermittently. 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 accurate 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 surroundings for your new baby’s arrival. So does nesting mean 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 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 or 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 actual signs of labor, the chances are that labor is not approaching soon. So when you experience gas, try to relax and remember 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 doesn’t feel the pain. Often, such women are dilated when examined by their doctor but do not show any 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?
Women have reported waves of nausea a few days before going into labor. This is usually attributed to hormonal changes at the end of the pregnancy.
What do contractions feel like?
Labor contractions can lead to a dull ache in your back and lower abdomen, along with pelvic pressure. In addition, some women experience pain in their thighs. Labor pain is often described as strong menstrual cramps or diarrhea cramps.
How to differentiate between Braxton Hicks and real contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions can be described as a sensation of tightening in the abdomen that comes and goes. These contractions do not get closer together or do not feel more robust over time. They often come with a change of position and go away with rest. On the other hand, real contractions occur at regular intervals and get closer together as they progress.
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.
Download our app today to speak to a real doctor and get genuine medical advice from your home for free.
FAQs About Labor Answered by Your Doctors Online Team
If you think you’re in labor, inform your doctor immediately. Your provider will let you know whether it is time for the hospital.
To cope with labor pain, the following may help:
Taking a bath or shower