By the time most mothers hit full term, they have lived through nine months of nausea, heartburn, back pain, swollen ankles, weight gain, you name it. There's a reason why women try different ways to get labor started, even when they know it's going to hurt. Anyone who's delivered past their due date understands the struggle. After a while, it seems like everyone on earth has asked you, "Have you had that baby yet?".
So when is "that baby" actually coming? Have you been fooled by gas or Braxton Hicks one too many times? Here are 10 sure signs that labor is 24-48 hours away.
10 The Bloody Show
There are a lot of signs that labor is just around the corner, but have you ever heard of "bloody show"? It might sound pretty gross (and it kind of is), but once it happens, baby's got the green light!
According to Healthline.com, bloody show is the discharge that occurs when you are losing, or have already lost, your mucus plug. Your mucus plug is a collection of mucus which seals the cervical canal during the length of your pregnancy. So once it's gone, it's go-time.
"Bloody show" often just looks like increased discharge, sometimes mixed with blood. In my experience, it literally looked like a light period.
9 Weight Loss
Don't get excited, you're not going to lose a ton of weight, but you might lose a couple of pounds at the very end of your pregnancy (or just stop gaining, finally!). Don't worry, it's most likely not negatively affecting your baby, mothers just have lower amounts of amniotic fluid at the tail end of their pregnancies. Other reasons for weight loss might be due to increased activity just before the birth (thanks to nesting) and "pregnancy peeing" upwards of 20 times a day. Yes, frequent potty breaks can be annoying, but all that water weight is going straight into the toilet.
Diarrhea, as gross as it is, is one of the top physical signs that labor is about to begin. I remember increasing my bathroom runs when I was about four centimeters dilated, and worrying I'd deliver in the toilet (I didn't). Expectant mothers also worry about pooping on the delivery table, but thankfully, this particular step in the process often keeps that from happening. Diarrhea occurs because the muscles in your body are relaxing before the birth, including the rectum.
7 The Baby Drops
No mother can accurately predict their baby's sex based on how low or high they're carrying (another weird wives tale), but they can predict how soon labor might start after the baby drops; a process called "lightening." This happens when your baby descends into the pelvis and is getting ready to make their exit. You'll notice your bump has changed shape, you'll waddle a little more, and the pee-breaks will come more frequently now that the baby's head is all smooshed against your bladder. Don't worry, the discomfort won't last long! You're almost to the finish line, mama.
6 Joints Feel Looser
It seems surprising that things could get a little easier at the very end of a pregnancy, but when it comes to joint flexibility, it's actually true. I'm not saying you're going to feel like hitting up a yoga class or anything like that, but right before you go into labor you'll notice that the joints all over your body feel a little less tight and a bit more relaxed. Why is that, you ask? Your body is releasing the hormone "relaxin," allowing your ligaments to loosen up a little, and your pelvis to expand for childbirth. Bodies are cool like that.
5 Back Pains
Back labor is real. Discomfort in your lower back is often a sign of early labor. Identifying this can be tricky, considering almost all heavily pregnant women have some degree of back pain, but pre-labor back pains are slightly different.
For one, the pain is persistent and only in your lower back. Two, it can often expand to your stomach and give you that pre-menstrual, crampy feeling that I'm sure you haven't been missing for the last nine months. Regular back pain can usually be eliminated or slightly alleviated, but back labor isn't going away until the baby pops out.
Many women experience a panicky, restless feeling right before they go into labor, also known as "nesting." This isn't the same feeling you had when you were happily painting the nursery a few months ago, day-dreaming of your little angel sleeping peacefully in their crib. No, nesting is when your body low-key hits the panic button. Mothers suddenly notice every bit of dust and have a driving need to organize and clean everything in sight. For all you fellow slobs out there, you'll recognize this burst of energy for what it is.
I hesitate to say "Braxton Hicks contractions," because those things can start months in advance, particularly if this isn't your first rodeo. Real contractions get stronger instead of easing up, come frequently and consistently, and don't go away after drinking water, eating, or lying down. Although one might not be as painful as the last, early labor contractions do increase in intensity over time. If your Braxton Hicks contractions suddenly pick up and don't fade away, you might very well be transitioning into early labor.
2 You're Dilated Past Three Centimeters
Your OB/GYN or midwife will definitely be checking your cervix at the very end of your pregnancy and letting you know how things are progressing. Your cervix may be dilated (opened) and effaced (thinned and stretched) for a couple of weeks before the baby comes, but when your cervix is dilated three centimeters or more, with consistent contractions, you have entered what's called the "active labor phase." Active labor lasts between three-to-seven centimeters, and "transition" is between seven-to-10 centimeters. At 10 centimeters dilated, you are ready to push. Once your cervix starts to open past three centimeters, delivery is right around the corner.
1 Water Breaking
This is the number one sign that labor will be starting within 24-48 hours, and there's a medical reason for that. During your pregnancy, the baby is cushioned and protected by a fluid-filled amniotic sac. At the beginning of labor, the sac ruptures and the baby needs to be born within on-to-two days to avoid infection. According to Parents.com, 80% of women don't experience their water breaking until contractions have already begun. The other 20% usually experiences labor pains within a few hours. Either way, things start happening pretty fast after you get splashed.