10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Labor

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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What are the early signs and symptoms of labor?

While there are characteristic changes in the body with impending labor, every woman's experience is unique and different. "Normal" can vary from woman to woman. The signs and symptoms of normal labor can begin three weeks prior to the anticipated due date up until two weeks afterward, and there is no precise way to predict exactly when a woman will go into labor. This article describes the 10 most common signs and symptoms that labor is approaching.

1. The baby drops

Medically known as "lightening," this is when the baby "drops." The baby's head descends deeper into the pelvis. For some women, this occurs up to 2 weeks prior to the beginning of labor; other women may not notice this event at all.

2. An increased urge to urinate

An increased urge to urinate can be a result of the baby's head dropping into the pelvis. The low position of the baby's head puts even more pressure on the urinary bladder, so many women approaching labor might feel a frequent need to urinate. As the baby drops, breathing can become easier since there is less pressure on the diaphragm from underneath.

3. The mucus plug passes

Passage of the mucus plug is a known sign that labor is near. Thick mucus produced by the cervical glands normally keeps the cervical opening closed during pregnancy. This mucus plug must be expelled before delivery. Pressure from the baby's head causes the mucus plug to be expressed from the vagina, sometimes as blood-tinged vaginal discharge (referred to as "bloody show"). For some women, the mucus plug is not expelled until after labor begins; others may notice the mucus discharge in the days prior to the onset of labor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/19/2015

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