12 Important Signs for Early Labor

Think you’re going into labor? Check out these signs of early labor

Whether you’re expecting your first baby or your sixth, early labor can happen to any woman and any point.

Labor in general can be a scary experience, no matter how many times you have done it before.

For me, I had a c-section so I didn’t have labor pains, but my mother, family members and my friends told me their labor stories to prepare me when I was pregnant with twins.

Knowing how to detect preterm labor is important so that you can discuss your concerns with your OB-GYN and help to prevent any potential complications.

Preterm or  signs of early labor is any labor that starts three weeks or more prior to your estimated due date.

While it doesn’t happen 100% of the time, early labor often leads to an early birth and a preterm or premie baby.

Things That Can Increase Your Risk of Early Labor

While we generally do our best to have healthy pregnancies, there are a few things that could potentially increase the risk of having a preterm or early labor. Many of these are lifestyle choices that you have complete control over. Keep in mind that healthy lifestyle choices will increase your chances of having a full term and healthy baby.

Some of the lifestyle choices that could lead to an early labor include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using drugs
  • Inadequate prenatal care
  • Being too overweight or too underweight
  • Getting pregnant too soon after just having a baby 

Some of the other things that could lead to an early labor or preterm birth include:

  • Various healthy conditions, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, infections, blood clots (many of these can be affected by lifestyle choices also)
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • A personal or family history of early labor
  • Pregnancy as a result of in vitro fertilization
  • Certain birth defects in the fetus

Symptoms and Signs of Early Labor

While you don’t want to run off to the ER every time you feel a cramp or have a backache, it is important to know the signs of early labor.
Depending on the situation, it might not always be possible to stop early labor.

However, knowing the signs and being able to act fast on the signs of early labor can make a big difference in having a full term or premature baby. If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms and you feel that you might be experiencing early labor, then call your doctor or midwife.

1. A Consistent Backache

I know, isn’t having a backache just part of being pregnant?

While back aches are a fairly common side effect of pregnancy (darn relaxin hormones!) a backache as a symptom of early labor is experienced in the lower back and does not ease up with changing of positions.

The hormone relaxin is released in order to prepare your body for labor, which can lead to increased pain in the back or pelvis.

If you’re suffering from consistent backache, what worked for me was this full body maternity pillow.

2. Contractions

Unfortunately, contractions are a necessity of vaginal labor and be a sign of early labor. While many women might experience false contractions, sometimes it can be difficult for moms to tell the difference. If you think you are experiencing contractions, time them and focus on how they are making you feel.

If you are experiencing contractions every 10 minutes or less then reach out to your doctor as this might be a sign of early labor.

3. Cramping

Cramping, contractions, what’s the difference?!?

For new and experienced moms alike, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Early labor cramping can also feel like gas pains and or similar to menstrual cramps, which might also be accompanied by diarrhea. This can also include increased pressure in the vaginal and pelvic area.

4. Leaking

While it’s pretty common to experience vaginal discharge during pregnancy (or anytime really), leaking fluids can be a sign of early labor. So if things are feeling a little wetter down there than normal, reach out to your doctor. 

And make sure to pick up some overnight pads for comfort.

5. Vaginal discharge

Speaking of discharge…

If you are experiencing an increase in vaginal discharge or change in color or consistency, contact your doctor. She might have you come in for a vaginal check or ultrasound to make sure everything looks ok.

6. Bleeding

While bleeding during pregnancy doesn’t always mean that there is something wrong, it is cause to worry if it’s an early sign of labor. If you are experiencing bleeding, especially if it looks like bright red period blood, reach out to your doctor or go into the ER.

7. Bloody Show

This should not be confused with actual bleeding. A bloody show is when you lose your mucus plug. This looks like blood that is mixed with mucus rather than your standard period blood. It’s often slimy and lightly pink colored. This is a sign that your cervix is getting ready for labor.

8. Your Water Breaking

The movies and TV shows have it all wrong!

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone on TV or in a movie where a woman is just going about her business, having no labor symptoms whatsoever, and is like…

“Oh look, my water just broke, honey it’s time to go to the hospital.”

There is a very small percentage of women whose water breaks without having any type of other signs of labor. But if you happen to be one of these TV wives who nonchalantly goes into labor this way, you might want to head to the ER.

9. Flu-Like Symptoms

Even if you are experiencing mild symptoms of the flu, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea., you should reach out to your doctor. Be sure that you are keeping yourself hydrated with water and electrolyte rich fluids if you are having problems keeping things down.

10. The Urge to “Go”

Having the urge to go to the bathroom, generally number two, could mean that the baby is pressing down on your pelvis and is getting ready to make their entrance into the world.

Yes, it might be difficult to tell some of these symptoms apart from regular old pregnancy annoyances.

However, don’t err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to the possibility and you might be experiencing early labor. It’s better to annoy your doctor with any potential warning signs than to have something happen to you or your baby.

11. Cervix Dilates

Now you are not going to be able to tell if your cervix is dilating on your own. Around the 36 week mark your doctor will start to perform cervical checks to see if you have begun dilating and will continue to do this weekly until you deliver.

When your body is getting ready to deliver, it has to prepare by dilating the cervix and thinning out. This can happen days and even weeks before your actual delivery. So while your doctor might let you know that this has already started to happen, the process can be drawn out.

This happens at different rates for everyone, so don’t get discouraged if it seems to take forever.

12. Joints Loosening

Remember that relaxin that we talked about earlier? It’s that lovely hormone that helps to loosen up your joints and ligaments in preparation for baby. This holds especially true in the pelvic region.

While this might be a little more difficult to tell, this could be a sign for early labor. If your body seems to be loosening up and you are feeling more relaxed, this could be a sign that baby is ready to make their debut.

13. Easing Discomforts

Some of the signs of early labor you are experiencing might just be general discomforts. If you are unsure if you are experiencing signs of early labor or just general discomforts, then there are a few things that you can try out before speed dialing your doctor.

Get up and go for a walk. If you have been sitting or laying in a specific position for a while, getting up and walking around can relieve some pain and discomfort.

Try breathing techniques. If you are stressed out, this can lead to a lot of different discomforts from cramps to body aches. Trying to de-stress with some breathing techniques can certainly help to alleviate some of these symptoms.

Try changing positions. Again, if you have been sitting or laying in the same position for an extended period of time, get up and move around or change your position. Pillows are a pregnant girl’s best friend!

Take a warm shower or bath. While a HOT bath or shower might sound like a great idea, be sure to keep the water to a reasonable temperature. Taking a warm bath or shower can help to relieve aches and pains and is great for relaxation.

When To Call A Doctor?

I am not a medical professional, so if you feel that something is wrong or that you might be going into labor, call your doctor or go to the local emergency room.

Sometimes signs of labor aren’t so obvious as your water breaking or perfectly spaced out contractions. So if you have concerns about signs of early labor, it is better to call your doctor and get checked out rather than wait and have something potentially go wrong.

Don’t ever feel bad or embarrassed when it comes to contacting your doctor about potential labor. That is what they are there for. You should contact them immediately if you are experiencing bleeding, increased swelling, blurred vision, or your water breaks.

So tell me, did you have early labor? Let me know and please pin me!

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