What are the signs your body is getting ready for labor? How can you read the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away? If you are pregnant and almost close to your due date, I am sure you are wondering about these signs of labor. And I bet you cannot wait to get done with all the pregnancy discomforts and get the labor started.
I gave birth to both of my babies at 38 weeks. Yet I still remember being uncomfortable weeks before I gave birth. With my second baby, I was in pre-labor for almost a week and I only hoped to see some sign that my labor was approaching soon. Not to mention, I was getting ready to be induced naturally coz the pre-labor pains were just getting uncomfortable.
With my first baby, there were some obvious signs that I was in labor. But with my second one, everything was spontaneous though I had pre-labor contractions a week early.
Related: Check out the 17 smart things you should do before giving birth
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Table of Contents
Stages of Labor
Before we dive into the signs labor is nearing, I just want to make sure the stages of labor jargon is understood. Labor occurs in 4 stages:
- Stage 1 – Contractions and Labor begins
- Stage 2 – Birth of the baby
- Stage 3 – Delivery of the placenta
- Stage 4 – First few hours after birth
The first stage of labor is further divided into Early (pre-labor), Active labor & Transition. This is the stage where the contractions begin and your body gets ready to give birth. And this stage is considered to be the longest stage lasting between a few hours to up to a couple of days.
1. Early Labor
Also called pre-labor, this is the first-ever stage where you start feeling the contractions and the cervix starts to soften, getting ready for labor. Though the contractions are not very strong and last for up to a minute or less, this phase is the most uncomfortable as it can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days. If you experience any of the below signs, get ready! These are some sure signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
With my first baby, my early labor lasted for up to 8 hours before I transitioned to active labor. But with my second one, I had minute long contractions which were called early labor for almost a week. And I cannot forget how uncomfortable that was.
2. Active Labor
The transition to active labor happens when your contractions are stronger and are a minute apart. And the cervix is also dilated from 6 to 10 cms making labor pain intense. Active labor can last for a couple of hours or longer before you actually get ready to give birth.
With both my babies, I felt lucky as my active labor lasted for up to 2 hours. I was 7 cms dilated when my midwife came to check in at home for my second baby and we rushed into the nearest hospital and the baby was born within an hour.
This is the last phase of the labor where the cervix is fully dilated and if there are no problems, you get ready to give birth to your baby.
7 Signs your body is getting ready for labor
Now that you get the labor jargon and understand the stages of labor, lets find out the most obvious signs of labor. Typically, early labor is when you start to feel contractions but it is also very hard to say as there is no set rule with labor.
That being said, here are some signs that you might experience during prelabor and it could be the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
Note that you could experience none of these signs and still might go into active labor. Or might experience most of the signs and still might have to wait for days. When it comes to labor, every experience is different!
1. Water Breaking
Water breaking is a typical symptom your body is getting ready for labor. Or at least that is what we think. Surprisingly only 15% of women have their water break before their labor begins.
If your water breaks, just know contractions are likely to start soon or even started. But in case the contractions don’t start, you might be induced to get things moving to avoid any kinds of infections.
Both the times, my water did not break until I was in active labor. And soon after the water broke, I had the urge to push and had my baby soon after.
2. Bloody show/ losing Mucus plug
Though bloody show and losing mucus plug is slightly different, they are used interchangeably. Mucus plug is transparent and contains little to no blood while bloody show is mucus tinged with red or brown blood.
This is one of the signs your body is getting ready for labor. Most probably the bloody show is followed by the loss of mucus plug. That being said, losing mucus plug alone is possible even weeks before you go into labor. And apparently it can even re-generate if lost way too early.
But a bloody show followed by loss of mucus plug can mean the cervix is getting ready to soften and dilate. However, some women might go into labor hours or a couple days after the loss of mucus plug and/ or bloody show.
With my first baby, mucus plug loss and bloody show was the first signs of labor being started.
3. Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton hicks contractions also know as false labor is normally known to start weeks or months before the actual labor start – mostly just one of the signs your body is getting ready for labor. Though they are milder than the actual contractions and last only for a few seconds, it is hard to distinguish especially the first time mom.
Braxton hicks tending to increase in its frequency and getting intense is one of the signs you look for – labor is nearing.
A lot of women complain of diarrhoea 24 to 48 hours before labor. I experienced it both the times. Apparantly I did not know it is part of the hormone changes and the signs your body is getting ready for labor.
5. Lower Back pain
While lower back pain is quite normal during pregnancy, it is one of the most common signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
The baby’s head settling down to get in position can be a main reason for lower back pain but if the pain do not subside if you change position, it is time to keep your hospital bag ready for labor.
Some women experience extreme fatigue days before they go into labor. I remember having sleepless nights and extremely tired days before I gave birth.
7. Nesting Instincts
Contrary to the above, some women experience a gush of energy nesting days hours before going into labor. Most probable reasons being some moms going into panic mode and getting everything ready for baby.
How do you feel 24 hours before labor?
While there is no one definite sign, every women experience it differently. It even changes with the pregnancies you have.
While some feel the outburst of energy getting everything ready for baby’s arrival, some experience extreme fatigue. And most commonly, the contractions are the real sign that you are nearing the big day and get to see your little one.
While the above discussed signs normally do suggest that labor is 24 to 48 hours away, you may experience 1, 2 or none of the symptoms and yet go into labor.
With my second baby, I had no clue until I went into active labor directly and was 7cms dilated. With my daughter, losing mucus plug and diarrhoea was the biggest sign.
What is silent labor?
Some lucky women do not get to know the contraction pain until they go into active labor. Including me! This is also often called as precipitate labor and often known to deliver within 3 hours of the start of contractions. While it is hard to say the cause, research says 2 out of 100 women go into silent labor without any labor signs.
Signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away – Conclusion
While the above list does have the most commonly reported signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away, it is hard to know the sure signs of labor nearing. Contractions however are the most real and alarming sign that you need to be aware. Many hospitals asks you to track the 5-1-1 contraction pattern before you go to the hospital. That is; contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting for 1 minute and this pattern continues for 1 hour.
However, if you had water break then you should immediately go to the hospital to avoid any kinds of infection. It is good to know that early labor or contractions feel differently and most often it is easy to be confused as active labor. Keep the 5-1-1 rule handy! You might experience mild to moderate contractions during early labor which can last for days before going into active labor.
My thoughts for you Mama – Relax! You can never surely tell that labor is nearing until you have some specific signs mentioned above. Do not stress. Try to enjoy the last days of pregnancy even though there are discomforts. Here are some easy solutions for the pregnancy discomforts that no one tells you about. Take time to relax and spend time with friends & family before the little one takes up all your time and attention.
Take care! I hope you have a quick & easy labor! ❤