Signs & Symptoms of Labor & When to See a Doctor?

Signs & Symptoms of Labor & When to See a Doctor?

Labour marks the beginning of your journey as a parent, and it’s only a short while before you get to hold your little one in your arms. By the end of the 9-months of pregnancy, most women can’t wait for this next step, when their body signals that the baby is on his way out. Before you prepare yourself to grab your hospital bag, it’s essential to make sure you are experiencing the actual symptoms of labour, as you might also be prone to false labour signs.  Your body prepares itself for the upcoming labour, and thus you may confuse it with active labour. In the following article, we shall acquaint you with the signs of labour and what you should do when you experience them. 

Video: 8 Signs and Symptoms of Labour You Should Look Out For

What are the Early Signs of Labour?

If you are worried whether what you are experiencing are early labor symptoms, look out for these initial signs of labour:

1. You Experience Leakage or Discharge

If you notice any fluid or blood leaking from your vaginal area, or you notice a different colour discharge (brownish or reddish), you should call your doctor right away. You may have lost the mucus plug that covers your cervix.

2. You May Experience Cramping

You may experience cramping, which is exactly the kind of cramping that you experience during your periods. However, this cramping may or may not be accompanied by diarrhoea.

3. You May Experience Contractions

Your stomach may feel too stretched and firm. If you experience contractions at regular intervals, you may be in labour. Braxton Hicks contractions are also very common at this time, but they come randomly.

4. You May Feel Pressure on Your Pelvis

You may experience pressure on your pelvic region. This pressure may feel like your baby is pushing downwards in your belly.

5. You Experience Back Pain

You may experience a backache, though this pain will be more pronounced around your lower back and may be dull and mild. But it is a good idea to report the same to your doctor.

6. You May Feel Your Joints Are Looser Than Normal

The pregnancy hormone relaxin loosens up ligaments and joints, which feels even more pronounced towards the end of your pregnancy. This is your body’s way of preparing your pelvis for delivery.

7. Cervix Dilation

The cervix begins to dilate as contractions begin, signalling that your baby is ready to come into the world. Your doctor will do frequent checks as your due date gets closer.

8. You May Feel The Need to Urinate Frequently

As the baby descends, the pressure on your urinary bladder increases, meaning you may feel the need to visit the bathroom more often. 

What You Should Do?

If you begin experiencing signs of labour, find a  quiet place to lie down comfortably. Catch your breath and prepare yourself mentally for the upcoming process. It is suggested that you drink water or juice to keep your body hydrated. Lack of water or dehydration may also cause cramping and make you uncomfortable. You may like to track your symptoms, and for the same, you can ask your partner or a friend to help you. If your symptoms subside or go away, it will be a good idea to relax for the day. However, if your symptoms become more intense and the pain increases, get immediate medical help.

Pregnant woman in labour

What Are the Signs of Active Labour?

Below are some signs of going into labor:

1. Stronger and More Regular Contractions:

You will experience more prominent and regular contractions during active labour. These contractions will not fade or go away, like Braxton Hicks’ contractions; rather, they will stay until the delivery of your baby. These contractions may begin like normal cramping but will become more pronounced and may occur every 3 to 8 minutes. You may feel these contractions rising from your back and slowly coming towards your stomach.

2. Your Water Breaks or the Amniotic Sac Ruptures

If you experience your amniotic sac rupturing or your water breaking, and you are also experiencing contractions with it, then you are surely going into labour. However, if your contractions have not started, then you may have to wait for a couple of hours for the labour to start. The water breaking is subtle, and you may feel like you are peeing, but you may not have control over it. It is also seen that only ten percent of women may experience amniotic sac rupturing.

3. Intense Rectal and Pelvic Pressure

As you enter your labour you may feel increased pelvic and rectal pressure. The rectal pressure would feel more like a feeling of passing a bowel movement. When you feel these symptoms, this means your baby is on his way out.

If you experience the above-mentioned labour pain symptoms, you should prepare yourself to go to the hospital.

4. Cramping in The Legs

Your cramps will initially begin in the uterus, but can spread to other areas like the legs. This will intensify as labour progresses. If these cramps are unbearable, sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

5. Cervix Dilation

Your cervix begins to dilate during the last leg of pregnancy, but this will be more pronounced during labour. It can dilate up to 10 centimetres to make way for the baby’s arrival. Make sure your partner or doctor does frequent checks; but note that dilation will happen in its own time.

6. Nausea

Many women have reported experiencing nausea or feeling sick to the stomach during pregnancy. This could be due to a mix of hormones released during labour and the nervousness of birthing.

Strong contractions

How Can You Tell Whether It is False or True Labour?

You can experience Braxton Hicks contractions as one of the ‘37-weeks-pregnant‘ signs of labour. Here we shall discuss various aspects that will help you know whether you are in false or true labour.

Following are the signs of false labour:

  • The contractions come randomly and not at regular intervals.
  • The pain is limited towards the lower abdominal region.
  • The contractions do not become intense or more painful with time.
  • You may not experience any pain or discomfort while talking.
  • You may feel comfortable to move around, and the pain may even subside by walking.

Following are the signs of true labor:

  • Change in the foetal activity; it may decrease or increase in comparison to normal activity.
  • The contractions will be centred on your pelvic region.
  • You will experience contractions at regular intervals, and they will become more intense as you move closer to delivering your baby.

You will experience pain in true labour that will begin from your back and come towards your lower belly, in contrast to false labour, where the pain may only be felt around the abdominal region. You should call your doctor as soon as you experience the symptoms of true labour.

When You Should Go to the Hospital?

Your doctor or midwife will guide you properly about the labour and the birthing process. You will also be told when you would be required to go to the hospital.

The guidelines or instructions may vary, depending on your pregnancy. If you have a normal pregnancy, then you will be told about the normal guidelines to manage your early and active labour symptoms. However, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, are pregnant for the first time, or you have other complications, then your doctor may give you special guidelines depending on your case.

Woman in labour at hospital

If you have any doubts or you are confused about your labour, feel free to call  your doctor. You will be guided on how to deal with false labour or understand the symptoms of labor  till you reach the birthing centre of the hospital. However, if you are in a case of high-risk pregnancy, you will be required to keep your midwife updated from time to time and even as soon as you go into labour.

If there are no complications involved in your pregnancy, you may be told to wait till your contractions last for about a minute each. These may come every five minutes, for up to an hour at a stretch. It will be a good idea to monitor and record the time of your contractions. As soon as you experience the actual signs of labour, where the contractions are more prominent and at regular intervals, you should get in touch with your doctor.

It is recommended to get in touch with your doctor as soon as you see the following symptoms:

  • Reduced or low foetal activity.
  • You have vaginal bleeding, pain, and even fever.
  • If your amniotic sac ruptures or you notice brownish, greenish, or yellow fluid. This could be meconium, your baby’s faeces or this may also indicate foetal stress.
  • If your amniotic sac ruptures before 37 weeks or you have contractions, this means you have preterm labour.


1. When Does Labour Start?

Generally, labour begins anytime between week 37 and week 42 of pregnancy. If labour occurs before 37 weeks, it could be a sign of preterm delivery. However, each woman’s body is different, so if your case seems different from the normal parameters of pregnancy, consult your doctor.

2. Does The Baby Move a Lot Before Labour Begins?

You may feel your baby’s movements get stronger as your pregnancy progresses and labour begins. The pattern of movement might keep changing, as your baby switches from kicking to squirming or shuffling. This is normal and a sign that your baby is in good health. If you feel the movements reduce at any point, consult your doctor for a checkup.

Some women tend to overlook even the bigger symptoms associated with labour, thinking that it is normal in pregnancy. It is suggested that if you experience any signs and symptoms associated with labour, get in touch with your doctor at the earliest to avoid complications.

Infographic: 4 Early Signs of Labour

Infographic: Early Signs of Labour


1. Signs that labour has begun; NHS;; November 202

2. Preterm labor; Mayo Clinic;; February 2022

3. Signs of Labor; American Pregnancy Association;

4. Raines. D, Cooper. D; Braxton Hicks Contractions; National Library of Medicine;; August 2022

5. Prodromal Labor; Cleveland Clinic;; September 2022

Also Read:

Prolonged Labour
Labour Pain – What Does It Actually Feel Like?
Signs & Stages of Labour during Normal Delivery

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