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How to Identify Signs of Labor in Late Pregnancy

By Heather Montgomery ; Updated April 18, 2017
Watch for signs that labor is near.

As you near your due date, you might be wondering how to tell that you are on the verge of, or in, labor. Each woman experiences the signs of labor differently -- and labor signs might even differ from pregnancy to pregnancy. Also, the beginning of true labor isn't always easy to recognize. In fact, you might have certain indications of labor that come and go for days. However, there are some common signs that will let you know when the big event is in your very near future.

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Watch for lightening in your abdomen. This is when your baby’s head drops into the pelvis in preparation for birth. You might notice lightening when looking in the mirror. You will see that your abdomen seems lower, or you might notice that it becomes easier to catch your breath. If you are a first-time mom, lightening might happen weeks before labor begins, while in your second and subsequent pregnancies, you might not experience lightening until labor is in full force. This is because your pelvic muscles were already stretched in your first pregnancy.

Check the toilet paper each time you wipe for blood-tinged staining. In preparation for giving birth, tiny blood vessels in your cervix break as your cervix thins, causing the staining. You might see anything from a pink discharge to red-tinged bloody mucus. This is known as the bloody show. Some women also pass an obvious mucous plug, which is the plug that sealed the cervix, while other women just have staining. A bloody show does not indicate that labor will start instantly, but does suggest that your body is well on its way to delivering your baby, usually within three days; however, in some instances, labor still might night start for another week or two, notes the AskDrSears website.

Monitor your baby’s movements throughout the day. As labor approaches, some babies stop moving as much, possibly to conserve energy for the big day, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center website. This may indicate that labor will happen within the day, although if you notice a significant lack of movement, you should report it to your medical provider.

Listen to your body as you near the end of your pregnancy. The birth hormones that your body produces can irritate your digestive tract. Frequent diarrhea and nausea are possible. You will likely also experience back pain and increased urination as labor approaches.

Time your contractions. When the pain in your lower back radiates forward towards you abdomen and lasts for 30 to 70 seconds, it might indicate that you are in labor. Real labor contractions -- as opposed to false labor, or Braxton Hicks -- will increase in frequency, pain and will not subside regardless of your position. When the contractions are five minutes or less apart for an hour, it's time to prepare for delivery.

Prepare for your water breaking, although only one in 10 women actually spontaneously break their water before labor begins, according to the AskDrSears website. If your water breaks, labor typically begin within hours and you should deliver within 24 hours.


Do not hesitate to call your doctor if you notice a change that makes you uncomfortable or worried in the weeks leading up to your due date.

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About the Author

Based in Lakeland, FL., Heather Montgomery has been writing a popular celebrity parenting blog and several parenting and relationship articles since 2011. Her work also appears on eHow and Everyday Family and she focuses her writing on topics about parenting, crafts, education and family relationships. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in early education from Fort Hays State University.

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