January 25, 2022

7 Signs of Labor

When you’re nearing the end of pregnancy, it can be difficult to know if you’re going into labor or experiencing prodromal, also known as false labor. First, let’s talk about prodromal labor and how you can tell the difference.

Prodromal Labor

Prodromal labor is also known as false labor, although, while the contractions felt are very real, they do not progress into active labor. This can happen in the weeks and days leading up to your baby’s arrival and can occur somewhat frequently.

Prodromal labor can feel discouraging at times because you are so excited to meet your baby and it can feel like pregnancy will never end, but try to think of it as a practice run. Try to get some rest and relax. This would be a great opportunity to practice your breathing and full body relaxation.

While there is no one reason why some people go through prodromal labor, it is thought to be a way for the body to:

  • Move the baby into an optimal birth position
  • Prepare the mother for true labor
  • Prepare the muscles used during labor


Pregnant woman in labor timing her contractions.

It’s important to track your contractions to figure out if you are experiencing prodromal labor or active labor. A good rule of thumb is the 5-1-1 rule. If your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, and this pattern has continued for 1 hour, you may be close to bringing your baby earthside. As true labor progresses, contractions will increase in intensity and length, while the time between contractions shortens. Prodromal labor may feel real, however the contractions do not get longer and the intervals between them do not shorten. If you are still unsure whether you are in true labor or not, call the midwives and let them know what you are experiencing.


One sign of labor that many mothers experience is vomiting and/or diarrhea that is not caused by medication, food, or activity. This is just another way your body prepares for labor and delivery. If you experience vomiting or diarrhea, make sure to stay hydrated and rest. Labor could be right around the corner!

Loss of Mucus Plug

Losing your mucus plug could be a sign of labor… or you could have a few more days, or even weeks left of pregnancy. This isn’t the most reliable sign of labor, so try not to get disappointed if you lose your mucus plug and labor doesn’t start immediately.

Some women lose their mucus plug in one big chunk, and sometimes it comes out in smaller bits. You may notice a thick, mucus-like discharge in your underwear.

Keep in mind that mucus plugs can regenerate, so you may lose your mucus plug more than once. It can also sometimes be tinged with pink, red, or brown blood. This is normal and not worrisome usually, and is called the bloody show.

Water Breaking

Movies have led us to believe that labor always starts with a dramatic scene where the pregnant woman’s water breaks and the amniotic fluid gushes onto the floor. This is not usually the case in real life. In fact, most women are already well into labor by the time their water breaks.

Pregnant woman in labor whose water broke.

When your water breaks it may come out in gushes, or a small trickle depending on how high the tear in the amniotic sac is. You may notice that with contractions more fluid is expelled.

If you are unsure whether you peed your pants or if your water broke, ask yourself these questions: Do you have a history of peeing your pants? If no, it’s probably not pee. What color is the liquid in question? Does it have an odor? If it is clear, or green tinged, and has no odor, it is probably not pee.

If your amniotic fluid is green in color, contact your midwife right away. This could be meconium staining and may be a sign of fetal distress.


As your expected due date approaches, or even passes, you may notice your baby descending into your pelvis. This is called the lightening. In first-time moms this usually happens in the days or weeks leading up to birth. For subsequent births, it can happen just before or during labor.

Once the baby drops, their head will apply pressure to the cervix, causing dilation. This added pressure in the pelvis can mean even more trips to the bathroom unfortunately. You may start waddling even more than you were before. To help stay comfortable, try sitting with your knees hip distance apart and tucking a pillow between your legs while you sleep. For more help getting comfortable during your last months of pregnancy, read our previous blog post How To Stay Comfortable During the 3rd Trimester.

Nesting Instinct

Pregnant woman experiencing the nesting instinct.

Do you have an overwhelming urge to clean and organize your house? You may be nesting. This is a sign that your baby is coming soon, within a few weeks usually! Use this burst of energy to your advantage, but go easy. Take breaks often and hydrate!

If you don’t experience the nesting instinct, don’t worry! Some women feel fatigued and need more rest. Listen to what your body is telling you and enjoy the last little bit of pregnancy when your baby goes with you literally everywhere.


Labor isn’t always obvious. The biggest sign of labor is contraction frequency and length, but even then they may just be practice contractions. It could be helpful to write down your symptoms as they happen and note the date and time. This will help you get a look at the bigger picture and compile your symptoms in one place. When you suspect you’re in labor, you can give our midwives a call and easily explain what symptoms you’re having and how long you have been experiencing them.
If you would like more information on labor symptoms, give us a call today.

Dakota Collins
Dakota Collins is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of two precious little girls who is passionate about freedom in pregnancy and childbirth.
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