Signs of Labor

Delivery of your baby – and event that you were happily looking forward to since you got pregnant! Many of you may be bit worried or even wondered when labor will start? Some of you may be thinking how the whole process will be. Most importantly, you may be wondering how you will come to know whether it is time for labor? Just like children, each labor may be different. But there are some common signs that you can look out for.

About three weeks to four weeks before true labor, the body prepares itself for delivery – a process called pre-labor. During this time:

  • Your baby gradually descends or drops down the pelvis, the process known as lighetning. This gets the baby heads down and in position for the exit.
  • The cervix dilates to aid in the movement of the baby down the exit. The extent of dilation may be different for different women.
  • Muscles and joints stretch and shift, giving you cramps and back pain.
  • As the cervix dilates, the thickened mucus that plugged the cervical canal may come out. It may come out in one shot as a lump or gradually as increased vaginal discharge.
  • You may get contractions that are mild and irregular. They may not remain for longer durations as in true labor.


And as you enter the last few weeks (37-40 weeks, generally), the signs of true labor starts. Here are the cues that you should look out for.

Breaking of water

Also known as rupture of membrane, this sign happens when the amniotic sac breaks and the fluid trickle down the vagina or just comes out in a gush. This is the first sign in most of the pregnancies. If you suspect that the water has broken, do intimate your doctor or midwife. How do you know whether the water has broken? You will not have any control over the flow of this water and panty liners may not be enough to absorb the flow. The fluid may not smell like urine.

Uterine contractions

These contractions are one of the best signs of labor. Initially, the contraction may feel like menstrual pains or cramps and may be associated with pain at lower back that repeats at intervals of 20-30 minutes. These contractions may gradually become stronger and remain for a longer duration. The contraction will then occur at closer intervals. Observe the time taken for five contractions to know the progress, and later count the number of contractions in 5 minutes. A good sign of labor is the presence of labor that spans for almost a minute and repeats every 3-5 minutes.

To summarize the signs of true labor the contractions are:

  • Stronger
  • Last for longer durations
  • Happens at regular intervals
  • Occurs at shorter intervals

In some rare cases, the strong regular contractions may happen without any warning.

In any case, if you are doubtful do not hesitate to call your doctor.

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