How to Identify Signs of Labor in Late Pregnancy

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Identifying signs of labor in late pregnancy will be easy for most women. There are a few variables that can make this a confusing time though. It?s important to understand what is actually going on in the body during labor and during the time leading up to labor. In addition to contractions and various vaginal secretions, the baby will be getting into position for birth.

The Baby is Preparing for Birth

A clear sign that labor is approaching is when the baby begins to shift. The baby will actually descend in the body. The head will be lowered down into the pelvic area. This is the baby?s way of preparing for birth. This can actually happen as early as two to four weeks before labor. Women may feel slightly uncomfortable during this time. The baby will put pressure on the bladder and bowel. In addition, the back may become sore, and hands and feet may begin to swell. When the baby shifts downward, some women will experience mild pelvic pressure and only a dull back ache.

Monitor Contractions

First-time mothers can expect contractions to feel like their stomachs are making fists. Not all women report pain with contractions either. If a woman is experience contractions late in her pregnancy, she is probably going into labor. Not all contractions point to labor though. It?s important to know the difference between real contractions and false contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as false contractions. They usually happen at random. It?s critical to begin timing contractions to determine if they are Braxton Hicks contractions or actual pre-labor contractions.

Vaginal Secretions or Leaks

There are a variety of different vaginal secretions to watch for. The first secretion is probably going to be the mucus plug. The mucus plug is typically light gray or brown in color. It gets released from the cervix before labor. It is possible for the mucus plug to fall off early. Once the plug falls out, labor is imminent. The water will also break sometime during the labor process. This will be a hard sign to miss. The amniotic sac ruptures, and water will be secreted from the vagina. This can actually happen up to 24 hours before contractions start. Labor can take a very long time, especially for first-time mothers. It?s important to keep one?s doctor abreast of any new developments. It?s equally important to stay comfortable, recognize the signs of labor and have a plan ready.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Identify Signs of Labor in Late Pregnancy," in, September 9, 2013, (accessed August 7, 2022).