Waiting during the last month of pregnancy for signs of your imminent labor can be torturous. Because there are late pregnancy symptoms before going into labor, you can gauge as to possibly how close you are to delivering your baby.
Late Pregnancy Symptoms Before Going Into Labor
It would be excellent if you could just have a checklist of everything that is going to happen to you. That way you’d know exactly where you are in the timeline of your baby’s birth.
But really, when things take place, even if they do at all, is almost as accurate as your due date. Shocker!
Not all of these signs will happen for every single mother, but most do and are necessary. We’re all so unique that what happened to your mother will likely not even happen to you. Here are eight signs you should know about.
Items Needed For Going Into Labor
- How To Relax During Labor: 3 Simple Ways To Ease Tension & Enhance Joy, ebook on Amazon or instant download from My Natural Baby Birth.
- Spinning Babies resources on turning a breech or improperly positioned baby.
- Maternity belts for relieving pain off your back, bladder, and pelvis after your baby has dropped.
- Essential oils like lavender for calming tension during baths or releasing stress in general.
- Red raspberry leaf tea for uterine support and cervical ripening for when you start to dilate and efface.
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Recovery Essentials for when all is said and done.
- For excess discharge or catching your mucus plug, wear a comfortable menstrual cup that you can remove easily.
- Plenty of baby wipes for easier cleanup before and after baby arrives.
- If you dare (nobody has to know), you can wear some pads or disposable panties to prepare for any sudden gushes of liquid.
Somewhere between 30 and 34 weeks, your baby will turn head down. This is in order to position themselves for birth before there is no room left to turn. It’s not uncommon for your baby to wait even up to 36 or 37 weeks in order to turn.
If your baby hasn’t turned, they’re considered breech. The hard part about this is that you’re more likely to have a cesarean if you can’t get them to turn on their own.
You may even hear that your baby is posterior (face up) and that it may mean a more difficult labor for you. Be sure so see Spinning Babies if you have either case.
But most likely, you’re baby will turn, and it’s most often the first sign of your nearing labor & delivery.
What this means for how you’ll be feeling:
- More pinching and pressure on your bladder. However, you’re not going to be kicked directly in the bladder anymore, which can be nice.
- You’ll be able to breathe and eat easier. Since now your baby is pushing themselves down, it opens up for room for your lungs and stomach.
Somewhere between 1 and 4 weeks before you start labor, your baby will descend deeply into your pelvis. They’ll rest right on top of your cervix and become engaged. If your baby has turned, this will be the next step and is guaranteed before delivery.
Often you may not even notice that this has happened, even when looking in the mirror sideways. Usually, it’s another mother that sees you regularly to comment on it.
It helps reduce your heartburn and allow easier breathing too. But on the downside:
- You’ll be peeing more often. Because your baby is as low as they can go now, where does your bladder get to go? Nowhere.
- Your pelvic pressure will increase. Your baby is now resting right into your pelvic bones and relying on them to be carried.
If you’ve got terrible lower belly pressure on your bladder and pelvis, try using a maternity belt that will lift and support, relieving you of some of that pressure.
When you baby starts pressing down onto your cervix, it’s a natural response for your body to start dilating and effacing.
If you’re a first-time mom, you’re more likely to not even have these. They resemble period cramps but are super low in your abdomen and between your hips. They’re literally from your cervix working, instead of your entire uterus.
You may have these for a few days before labor.
You may have these off and on for weeks.
You may not have them at all.
Though they’re typicaly minor, the downsides are:
- They can be rather painful for some women. This is more common if your periods in the past have normally caused you a lot of pain. But it’s not always a determining factor
- They can be constant, like a period. Try taking a warm bath with relaxing lavender essential oils if you need some relief.
These cramps can coincide with clear contractions as well.
First-time mothers are more likely to not have any contractions until active labor. You can have a few different types of contractions alone, combined, or not at all.
- Braxton Hicks Contractions. You’ve likely been having these through your pregnancy. But often towards the end they can come more frequently, last longer, and come on harder.
- Crampy Contractions. If you commonly had waves of cramps that would peak and fall during the heavy days of your periods, you’re more likely to have these types of contractions.
- False Labor Contractions. They can be weak or strong, almost anywhere in your belly. These contractions aren’t consistent, don’t get closer together, and they come and go randomly.
Some mothers never have contractions until they’re in active labor. But, you may find confidence in knowing it’s affecting your dilation, which is finally next.
Dilation and Effacement
When you’re going through all the previous symptoms, all of that work is for your cervix to open up and thin out.
This can start happening as soon as your baby’s head has dropped, or it can literally start hours before you give birth. So when you go into your doctor at 36 weeks and they start checking you for dilation, it can mean everything, and it can also mean nothing.
- You can also be completely effaced and dilated up to 3 or 4cm without even having had any contractions or cramps.
- You can be dilated a little for weeks at a time with what seems like no progress.
- You can even dilate fully up to 10 cm within a few hours.
You’re always eager to know if you’ve dilated, but at the same time, it’s so frustrating because it means you can progress in the next few minutes … or the next few weeks.
When you’ve got a pregnancy or two under your belt, you’ll be more able to predict things for yourself based on your history. But even then, things can be just as different with each pregnancy.
Try drinking some red raspberry leaf tea; it’s known to aid in cervical ripening during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
Mucus Plug Loss
Here’s where you get into the much closer timeliness of symptoms. Your mucus plug will dislodge from your cervix within a week of going into labor, usually a couple days.
But the caveat is that you can even lose your mucus plug at the start of active labor. However, MOST mothers lose theirs prior to any active contractions.
What does it look like?
- It can be clear, white, yellow, brownish, even a little bloody (which is why sometimes it’s referred to as bloody show).
- It can come all at once or gradually like regular discharge.
- It can be a small amount that doesn’t seem significant, up to a fifty-cent-piece-size wad of goo.
You may not even notice it being lost. I’ve never noticed losing mine, ever. But you WILL lose it because your cervix doesn’t need it anymore.
Want to know exactly when your mucus plug comes out? Wear a menstrual cup the last few weeks of your pregnancy and check it daily.
Having potty troubles is a less common pre-labor symptom. But you may have diarrhea very shortly before your active labor, sometimes even during it. I always know I’m in active labor because I have to visit the bathroom atleast twice.
It can be nice because:
- You’re usually at home with this happens and you can take care of it privately.
- You feel emptier afterward (at least a little) in order to make more room for your baby’s expulsion.
- You know now that you’re most definitely in active labor, or that you will start very quickly.
Just to be smart, have an ample supply of baby wipes handy by your toilet for easier cleanup. Yes, you can absolutely break open the huge case of baby wipes from your baby shower in use them on yourself. They’re a life saver at times like this!
The funniest stories from mothers seem to be the odd times and places they’re in when their water breaks. It’s because this can happen with no warning at all, or every symptom in the book.
- You can have your waters break and not go into labor (very uncommon).
- You can deliver your baby with a completely intact amniotic sac (called the caul, but also very rare.)
- You’ll most likely lose your water sometime during active or transitional labor.
I pray you DON’T lose yours in public because it may feel like you’ve dumped a gallon of water into your pants and there’s no stopping it. But it can also be a slower flow that lasts a bit longer, coming in more sporadic spurts.
Worried about having an terrible accident in public without a change of clothes? If you dare (nobody has to know), you can wear some pads or disposable panties to prepare for any sudden gushes of liquid. You’ll need to get used to it anyway when you have after birth bleeding.
So that’s a lot of info. And I hope it doesn’t frustrate you with how variable things can be when it comes to timing and progression for your baby’s arrival.
But here’s a quick outline of the facts:
|Symptom||When It Usually Happens||How Likely It Will Happen|
|Baby Turning||Between 30-34 weeks||For 90% of women|
|Baby Dropping||1-4 weeks before giving birth||Guaranteed if baby isn’t breech|
|Cramps||A few weeks before birth||Not at all for FTM, very likely for all other mothers|
|Contractions||A few weeks before birth||Not much for FTM, varies for all other mothers|
|Dilation & Effacement||A few days before, and through active labor||Guaranteed, but how quickly is not|
|Mucus Plug Loss||Up to a few days before active labor||Guaranteed, but most mothers won’t notice|
|Diarrhea||At start of active labor||Less common for all mothers|
|Waters Breaking||During active labor||Most mothers’ sack will break spontaneously|
Remember, your baby will come when the time is right. Your body knows what it’s doing. And if you end up having all of these symptoms on the very same day, so be it.
Trust your body. When you’re this close, it’s a good idea to have everything ready for post-delivery so you’re not overwhelmed when that comes.
Don’t worry if these signs don’t come when you want. If everything happened right on a clock when we want, babies would probably never come.