Early signs of labor: labor symptoms
Early signs of labor: labor symptoms

As your due date approaches, you may start to wonder when labor will begin and how you’ll know it’s time to head to the hospital. The truth is, every woman’s labor is different, but there are some common early signs of labor that you can watch out for. In this article, we’ll discuss the labor symptoms you should be aware of so you can be prepared for the big day.

Stages of Labor

Early Labor

Early labor is the first stage of labor and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. During this stage, you may experience mild contractions that are irregular and spaced apart. These contractions may feel like menstrual cramps and can be accompanied by lower back pain and a feeling of pressure in your pelvis. You may also experience a bloody show, which is a small amount of blood-tinged mucus that is discharged from your cervix.

Active Labor

Active labor is the second stage of labor and typically lasts between 4-8 hours. During this stage, your contractions will become more frequent, longer, and stronger. You may also experience back pain, increased pressure in your pelvis, and a strong urge to push. This is the stage when your cervix will dilate from 6-10 centimeters, which is necessary for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

Transition Labor

Transition labor is the final stage of labor and typically lasts between 30 minutes to 2 hours. During this stage, your contractions will be very strong, very close together, and may feel like they are coming one on top of the other. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, and shaking. This is the stage when your cervix will dilate from 10 centimeters to fully open, which is when you will begin to push.

Early Signs of Labor


Contractions are the most common early sign of labor. They can be described as a tightening or cramping sensation in your uterus that comes and goes in a regular pattern. As labor progresses, your contractions will become stronger, longer, and closer together.

Water Breaking

When the amniotic sac that surrounds your baby ruptures, it’s known as your water breaking. This can happen as a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid. If your water breaks, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Bloody Show

A bloody show is a small amount of blood-tinged mucus that is discharged from your cervix. This is a sign that your cervix is starting to soften and dilate in preparation for labor.

Back Pain

Many women experience lower back pain during labor, especially as the baby moves down through the birth canal. This pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by cramping or contractions.

Pressure in Pelvis

As your baby moves down through the birth canal, you may feel increased pressure in your pelvis. This can be uncomfortable but is a sign that labor is progressing.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Some women experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a low-grade fever in the days leading up to labor. This is thought to be caused by hormonal changes in the body.


How long does early labor last?

Early labor can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience contractions that are regular and getting stronger, your water breaks, or you have any concerns about your labor.

What should I pack in my hospital bag?

You should pack comfortable clothing, toiletries, a camera, snacks, and anything else that will help make your hospital stay more comfortable.

Should I have a birth plan?

Having a birth plan can be helpful in communicating your preferences to your healthcare provider, but it’s important to be flexible as labor can be unpredictable.

What pain management options are available during labor?

There are many pain management options available during labor, including epidural anesthesia, nitrous oxide, and natural methods such as breathing techniques and massage.

What happens during a c-section?

A c-section is a surgical procedure in which your baby is delivered through an incision in your abdomen and uterus. This may be necessary if there are complications during labor or if your healthcare provider determines that it’s the safest way to deliver your baby.

How long does recovery take after giving birth?

Recovery after giving birth can take several weeks, depending on the type of delivery you had. It’s important to rest, eat a healthy diet, and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.

What should I expect during the postpartum period?

The postpartum period is a time of physical and emotional adjustment for both you and your baby. You may experience fatigue, mood swings, and difficulty breastfeeding. It’s important to seek support from your healthcare provider, family, and friends during this time.


Knowing the early signs of labor can help you feel more prepared and less anxious about the birth of your baby. By recognizing the symptoms of labor, you can make sure that you get the care you need when you need it.


It’s a good idea to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization to help you cope with labor pain. You can also take childbirth classes to learn more about the labor and delivery process.


Early signs of labor include contractions, water breaking, bloody show, back pain, pressure in the pelvis, and flu-like symptoms. These symptoms can help you recognize when labor is starting and when to contact your healthcare provider. Understanding the stages of labor and having a support system in place can help you feel more confident and prepared for the birth of your baby.