7 Early Symptoms Of Labour Pain And What You Can Do

7 Early Symptoms Of Labour Pain And What You Can Do

31 Oct 2022 | 6 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 799 Articles

Many expecting mums wonder how labour feels, how long will it last, and how to determine whether it’s the real deal or just a false alarm. You may think that every cramp you are experiencing is a contraction, or have questions like “what should I do if my water breaks before having contractions?” You may have also asked tons of questions to other mums and received different responses.

Since labour is an uncertain event, it will be hard for you to determine answers to all your questions. But the good news is that there are some evident indicators of labour pain that can help provide clues if you are going to meet your little bundle of joy soon. So what are the common symptoms of labour pain? Keep reading to find out! 

When Does Labour Start?

In most cases, labour starts between the 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy. Labour that occurs before the 37th week is called the early term or preterm, labour between 39-40 weeks is referred to as full-term, and labour that starts after the 42nd week is called late-term. 

About 60% of women go into labour on or before their estimated due date. However, if you go beyond 41 weeks, your healthcare provider may recommend inducing labour.

You should be on the watch for the symptoms of labour pain around your due date. However, not that the process of labour might begin way before your due date. While these signs are positive indicators that your labour has begun, you will necessarily not experience all of them. 

Early Symptoms Of Labour Pain

Early Symptoms Of Labour Pain
Look out for these early signs of labour pain and keep your healthcare provider informed / Image credit: Freepik

Your body will give you a lot of alerts before labour’s arrival. We have listed some of the most common signs that you might experience before your labour’s onset.

The Baby Drops (Lightening)

When your body prepares for labour, your baby may settle deeper into your pelvis, making you feel lighter. You will feel reduced pressure in your chest and abdomen, making it easier for you to breathe and eat a full meal. 

However, this symptom does not signify that labour is close. It may take you a few more weeks to reach that stage. Also, if you are a first-time mum, you might experience this symptom earlier than experienced mums. 


As the name suggests, nesting is a motherly instinct to build a safe haven for your baby. During those last few weeks of pregnancy, and amid weakness and breathlessness, you might suddenly feel energetic, and set your house in order, tidy your baby’s room, and arrange your baby’s closet. You might feel this symptom is a bit quirky, but it’s an alert that your body has started to prepare for labour.

Cervical Changes

The cervix is the opening of your uterus, through which your baby is born. Throughout your pregnancy, this opening is closed (not dilated), thick (not effaced), pointed toward the back (posterior end of the mother), and has a layer of mucus, known as the mucus plug to protect your baby. However, as your labour approaches, your cervix will change in the following manner:

  • Effacement or thinning of the cervix: The cervix becomes to widen and becomes thinner, indicating that the lower part of your uterus is ready for labour.
  • Dilation: Your cervix opens to about 10cm just during labour.

While you may not observe these changes to your cervix, your doctor will check for these cervical changes once you near your due date.

Bloody Show

As changes in your cervix occur, you shed your mucus plug. It drops out in the form of a discharge or a lump for a few days. The mucus plug appears tinged with pink, brown, or red blood, and is, therefore, referred to as a “bloody show”. The shedding of the mucus plug indicates that your labour is close. However, note that every expecting mum will not have this symptom. If you notice bleeding between 32-34 weeks, call your doctor as it could be a sign of preterm labour.

Your Contractions Get Intense

One of the major signs of true labour is experiencing contractions. They will become stronger and longer as you near your labour. Your real contractions will begin after the 37th week of pregnancy, and they will be regular and have a pattern. These contractions begin from your lower back and radiate toward your groin region, and they will progress with time. 

Water Breaking

A spontaneous rupture of the membranes, also known as your water breaking is a strong symptom of labour. It occurs when your amniotic sac ruptures and the fluid gushes out of your vagina. Once your water breaks, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider.


During the early stages of labour, your body releases prostaglandins, which soften your cervix and contract the uterus. They also stimulate your bowel movement to naturally empty the bowel and make way for your baby. This is a good symptom as it helps clean out your tummy and prevents any discomfort during labour. 

What To Do During Early Labour?

What To Do During Early Labour?
Try to relax and practice deep breathing exercises to soothe labour pain / Image credit: Freepik

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your labour and delivery during this time. But remember, staying calm and relaxed is what’s going to work best for you and your baby now. Here are a few things you can do during this time.

  • Lie down and relax: Find a quiet place to lie down and relax. Calm your mind and try to breathe naturally. This will help you cope with contractions and also stimulate your body to release oxytocin hormone, which is required for labour progression.
  • Keep yourself hydrated: Drink plenty of water or fresh fruit and veggie juices to ease labour symptoms and prevent cramps that occur due to dehydration.
  • Rest well: Alternate between resting and walking slowly, and take a warm bath to ease your aches and pains.
  • Eat well: Eat and drink what you feel like. Have small portions of high-energy foods to build your energy reserve.


As you approach your due date, you should learn to differentiate between true and false contractions. Additionally, these symptoms of labour pain will help you determine if you are going to meet your baby soon, and when to go to the hospital. Keep your doctor informed about the symptoms you are experiencing and try to relax as much as you can and breathe naturally.


Is loss of appetite a symptom of labour?

You may feel anxiety during the early stages of labour and that might suppress your hunger, and lead you to lose your appetite. However, this is not a standalone symptom of labour. 

Is nausea a sign of labour?

You might experience nausea and headaches when your water breaks.

Is pelvic pressure a sign of labour?

You might experience pelvis pressure as your baby drops into your pelvis. 

Cover Image Credit: Freepik.com



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