Early Labour Signs: How To Spot Them And When To Act

Early labour signs can be difficult for new mums to recognise, and sometimes they can seem a bit worrying. While everyone’s experience of labour will be different and unique to them, some women do report feeling the same or similar symptoms in early labour.

early labour signs


Early Labour Signs To Look Out For


There are some signs that can indicate that labour and birth are on the way. They usually aren’t anything to worry about, but if you are concerned you can speak to your GP.
Baby Descends

One of the early labour signs that you might have heard about is that the baby will descend into the pelvis. It can happen as early as 34 weeks but may not happen until labour is starting. It’s usually more noticeable in your first pregnancy. It can feel like a pressure low down in your body, and you will probably still feel the need to urinate frequently. However, you may find that it’s a little easier to breathe as the baby moves away from your lungs.

Cervix Begins To Dilate

Your healthcare provider may begin to check your cervix at your appointments. It should be beginning to open or dilate. This happens on a different timescale for everyone, so there’s no need to worry if it’s progressing slowly or hasn’t started yet.

Back Pain And Cramps

You’ll probably feel some pain, or increased pain, in your lower back and groin as your body prepares for your little one’s birth. You might also feel some cramping and discomfort. All this means is that your muscles and joints are getting ready for the birth.

Loose Joints

You might notice that your joints are looser, and more relaxed. During pregnancy, relaxin, one of the pregnancy hormones, makes your ligaments looser. It’s a way to prepare your body, and in particular, your pelvis, to allow your little one to be born.


Some women report that as their muscles and cervix loosen, they can experience pre-labour diarrhoea. It can be a little annoying, but it is completely normal, and it just means that your body is getting ready for your little one’s arrival. If you do experience pre-labour diarrhoea drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.


Another early labour sign is the nesting instinct. It doesn’t happen to every woman but many report that they are overcome with an urge to clean, organise and prepare the home for their little one’s imminent arrival. Try not to overdo it and rest when you need to.


Signs Of Labour


There are some signs of labour that mean that your baby is on the way.

Strong, Frequent Contractions

Strong, frequent contractions are one of the clearest signs that you’re going into labour. You may have had Braxton Hicks contractions previously, but there will be a difference between those and labour contractions. Labour contractions tend to come at regular intervals, with the time between them decreasing as they progress. The contractions will last between 40 and 50 seconds each initially but will likely progress to over 60 seconds. The length of time, and the severity of the contraction increases as your labour progresses.


There is a mucus plug that essentially seals your uterus off. A sign of early labour is when this plug comes out. It may come out in one piece, or it may come out in little pieces.

You may also notice some thick, vaginal discharge in the days leading up to your labour. This discharge can have a pinkish colour, but if you are concerned about the amount of blood present speak to your healthcare professional.

Water Breaks

You will have other symptoms of labour before your waters break. This is because the membranes around your baby have ruptured, and the amniotic fluid leaks out. It’s one of the final signs of labour, and it won’t necessarily happen naturally.


When To Act

Some women are unsure of when the right time is to call the midwife or the hospital. The short answer being that you can call at any time when you need reassurance. Your healthcare providers will probably have given you some advice on when to call, or when you are in labour. They may have told you something about when the contractions are five minutes apart, and last for around a minute. However, you can call and ask for advice at any time if you have any concerns.

You should call if you experience:

– Bleeding, or bright red discharge
– Headaches, blurred or double vision, or swelling
– Waters breaking, and especially if the fluid is green or brown in colour, or if there’s any smell coming from the fluid


Can Someone Be In Labour And Not Know?

Every pregnancy, labour and birth is different. Generally, labour and delivery follow a path, which includes the early signs of labour. If you’re unsure, or if you feel that you aren’t experiencing the symptoms you expected, call your healthcare provider and get checked out.