Prelabor signs can precede true labor by a month or more, but sometimes they only appear a few hours before labor begins. Key signs of labor include thinning and dilation of the cervix. Examples of prelabor signs include an increasing pressure in the pelvis and rectum, changes in vaginal discharge, and losing the mucus plug. Women who are pregnant for the first time may notice the baby sitting lower than before; this usually occurs about two to four weeks before labor begins.
It is often difficult to tell when true labor begins. However, there are some early signs that signal labor is approaching. These are called prelabor signs. Prelabor signs and symptoms can precede real labor by a month or more, but sometimes they only show up a few hours before labor begins. Key signs of labor include thinning and dilation of the cervix. Yet there are a number of prelabor signs you might also notice.
Specific prelabor signs include:
- Lightening and engagement
- Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions
- Increasing pressure in the pelvis and rectum
- Changes in energy level, mood, or habits
- Changes in vaginal discharge
- "Bloody show"
- Losing the mucus plug
- Rupture of membranes (your water "breaks").
On the next page, we discuss each of these prelabor signs in detail.