The 17 Labor Symptoms: What Are They?

Looking for labor symptoms? What are the signs you can look out for in the last month? You might be feeling the changes in your body more acutely, partly because you’re anxious and on the lookout for signs of labor. There are many labor symptoms you can look out for, so let’s sum them up from 1 all the way to 17.

Labor symptoms: Changes in the belly

pregnant woman belly

1. Irregular contractions

As your expected delivery date (EDD) looms closer, you might start feeling more irregular contractions. These contractions are termed Braxton Hicks contractions and are often mistaken for true labor contractions. The pain goes away as soon as it comes and often is not gut-wrenchingly painful. True labor contractions will be unlike any contractions you have felt before.

However, the Braxton Hicks contractions can become true labor contractions anytime, so when you feel them, make sure you’re ready to go to the hospital even though it might turn out to be a false alarm.


2. Baby drops

When your pregnancy approaches term, your baby will drop. The uterus, which was pushing up against the stomach, will drop down in the direction of the pelvis. The baby’s head is now engaged in the pelvis. As a result, your baby bump might appear to have migrated downwards.


3. Improved appetite

Just before going into labor, you might find yourself having a better appetite. This is because the stomach, which was compressed by the uterus, is no longer under pressure as the uterus moves downwards. Even though your appetite improves and you’re able to eat more, refrain from eating too much and letting your weight soar. This will increase the burden on your body and affect your labor negatively. Exercise some self-control and don’t give in to temptation too easily!



4. Fetal movement decreases and becomes weaker

Even after the baby drops and the baby’s head is engaged in the pelvis, the baby will continue to grow bigger and the available space in the uterus decreases. Fetal movement will decrease in intensity and frequency, but that’s not always the case – you might be having an extremely active baby!

What you need to note is no fetal movement. If you don’t feel any movement in a 24-hour period, this spells trouble. Call your practitioner and go to the hospital right away.

Labor symptoms: Changes in bowel movement

toilet woman paper

5. Good bowel movement / diarrhea

If you find yourself being able to move your bowels after months of constipation, you might be closer to labor than you might think you are. This is because the hormone progesterone, which slows down bowel movement, is secreted in a decreased amount when labor approaches. You will see a progression toward a normal bowel movement if you have had constipation, and if you didn’t have any constipation during pregnancy, you might find yourself having diarrhea instead.

As this is a physiological phenomenon, don’t worry too much about your stools! Instead, drink up to replace the fluids you lost and continue to look forward to the labor and delivery!


6. Constipation

Although some moms might be rejoicing that their bowels are moving and that they don’t have constipation anymore, some moms might start becoming constipated as labor approaches. As the baby becomes bigger, the uterus presses down on the intestines, making it more difficult for your bowels to move. Also, lack of exercise, fatigue, or stress can further mess up your automatic nervous system and that can lead to constipation as well.

You might have heard horror stories of moms giving birth in the toilet, but if you’re trying to move your bowels and you’re not having any contractions at the moment, it’s relatively safe for you to try to push your bowels out without worrying that you might accidentally deliver your baby.


7. Frequent urination

You might find yourself tripping off to the restroom more often. Even if you make a kazillion trips to the restroom, it feels like there is residual urine and you can’t shake off the feeling of needing to urinate all the time. This is because the baby drops, the uterus compresses the bladder, and your bladder isn’t able to hold as much urine as before.

The urge to go to the restroom might wake you up at night and so, deprive you of sleep. What you can do is to watch the amount of liquid you’re taking in, especially when it’s close to bedtime.


8. Increase in vaginal discharge

In the last month of pregnancy, the increase in the amount of estrogen secreted in the body causes an increase in vaginal discharge. The smell and the color of your vaginal discharge might also change. Changes in vaginal discharge differ from individual to individual, but as long as it’s not blood or vaginal discharge tinged with blood, there’s no need to worry too much yet.


9. Flatulence – passing more gas than usual

You might be hoping to deliver your baby soon, but all that’s coming out is gas! When the uterus sits on the intestines and compresses them, the gas that is in your intestines is squeezed out of your body. Take in lots of water and dietary fiber, and do some light exercises – this will also help solve constipation as well.

Labor symptoms: Changes in the body

pregnant woman bed

10. Edema (Swelling)

When you’re pregnant, the water content in your blood increases by 30%. The water is trapped in the subcutaneous areas because of the effect of estrogen. As pregnancy approaches term, the baby’s growth can cause blood circulation in the lower half of the body to worsen, and this also contributes to edema. Avoid salty food, drink more water, and prop your legs up when you’re sleeping.


11. Fatigue and sleepiness

The effect of estrogen in the last month of pregnancy keeps you awake and makes it difficult to fall asleep at night. You might find yourself having disturbed sleep more often. It’s no surprise if you find yourself dropping off to sleep in the day. However, don’t worry. This is the body’s way of reacting to the hormonal changes arising in you, and it will soon be over. Avoid overtaxing your body and take it easy!


12. Third-trimester nausea

In the third trimester, the hormone progesterone is secreted in smaller amounts, but estrogen is secreted in increased amounts. As a result, the hormonal levels in the body changes and the muscles around your stomach and intestines become slack.

Gastric acid returns to the stomach, and you will feel like puking all over again. This “morning sickness” happens because the uterus expands and more pressure is exerted on the intestines. Eat food that is easy to digest and take the time to relax and rest after a meal.


13. Painful, sore pubic bones

When the labor approaches, the pubic bone starts to move and your hips will expand. As the joints in your pelvis loosen, you might find your hips getting sore. Some moms feel pain in their bladder because of the expanding uterus. However, this is proof that your baby has dropped and that labor is approaching, so it won’t be long before you get to meet your baby!


14. Headache

A headache in the last month of pregnancy or when labor is approaching might be due to iron deficiency. As the baby requires water, iron and nutrients for growth, the mother doesn’t have enough of these for herself at times. To combat headaches, take in foods rich in iron and vitamin B6, and drink enough water. If the symptoms improve, then continue to watch your diet, but if the headaches worsen, you might want to ask your doctor for iron supplements.

Indisputable labor symptoms

pregnant woman contractions pain

15. Bleeding

When labor approaches, your vaginal discharge will increase. The cervix opens slightly, and the chorion might become separated from the uterine lining. This results in slight bleeding which might be bloody show. The blood you see might be pinkish as it’s mixed with vaginal discharge. Try to remain calm and contact your practitioner. However, if you’re bleeding heavily and you’re having strange and painful abdominal cramps, it’s best that you go to the hospital right away without a moment’s delay.


16. Regular contractions

In order to push the baby out of the uterus, the uterus has to contract. These contractions are regular and once the intervals in-between the contractions are as short as 10 minutes in a first-time pregnancy, and about 15 minutes in a second-time or subsequent pregnancy, then you should make preparations to head to the hospital immediately after contacting your practitioner. The intervals between the contractions will shorten and you will go into labor.


17. Waters break

The breaking of waters refers to the amniotic fluid that comes out from your vagina when the amniotic sac ruptures. The amount differs from mom to mom. Usually, one’s waters break when the cervix dilates to 10 cm, and about 20 to 30% of moms have their waters broken before their contractions start. If the smell of the discharge doesn’t have the smell of ammonia that urine has, and if the discharge is colorless, call your practitioner and ask for instructions.

Bonus point: Sixth sense

pregnant woman surprised

Call it the sixth sense, call it your gut feeling. Sometimes science cannot explain everything. If you wake up feeling that this is the day you’re going to give birth, you might just be right. No one might believe you at first, but if you have a bone-deep conviction that today is the day, maybe your baby is really sending you a sign. Wait and see if you’re right! You might just hit the bull’s-eye this time.