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Signs of Labor


Dr. O’Connor

Toward the end of your pregnancy, there are two words that you may be hearing frequently. They are “effacement,” which describes the thinning of your cervix that happens before your baby is born, and “dilation,” which is the gradual opening of the cervix so that your baby can get through. Both effacement and dilation are part of every woman’s labor, and both can begin several weeks before you actually go into labor.

There are also other signs that let you know your labor is approaching. Some of these signs, like “lightening” may happen as early as two to four weeks before your labor actually starts, especially if this is your first baby.

Lightening, which is also called engagement or dropping, is when your baby’s head settles into your pelvic cavity. If this is not your first baby, then she may not drop until your labor actually begins.

Another sign that your labor is approaching is the loss of your mucous plug. This is like a cork of mucous that seals your uterus when you’re pregnant. The plug can come out just before labor or up to a week or two in advance, and may look like long strings of mucous.

It’s not unusual to have a touch of diarrhea just before your labor begins. This is nature’s way of cleansing your system.

You may also experience a burst of energy, sometimes called the “nesting instinct,” before you go into labor. You may feel the need to clean your house and get things ready for your baby. Just remember, don’t do any heavy work. You’ll want to save your energy for labor.

Another sign that labor is close is something called “pink” or “bloody” show. This mucousy discharge is tinted a pink color and caused by some of the capillaries near your cervix rupturing as it thins out and dilates.

Keep in mind that these signs don’t necessarily mean your labor is going to start immediately, but they do mean that you’re getting closer. Not everyone experiences all of the signs, so don’t worry if you have only a few.