Signs of Labour: What to Look For

Signs of Labour: What to Look For

If you’re anxiously waiting for the birth of your first child, you’re probably wondering what signs of labour to look out for. As your due date approaches, you may be over analysing every twinge to discover whether labour is imminent. Don’t forget, only five percent of babies are born on their due date, so you may have a little longer left to wait.

The following signs of labour may help you to identify when labour has begun:

The show

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those ‘give birth on national television’ scenarios, it’s simply the name given to losing your mucus plug. The mucus plug has been sitting at the entrance to your uterus since the pregnancy began, keeping your uterus sterile for the baby. As your cervix begins to soften and dilate, the mucus plug can become dislodged. You may notice a heavy vaginal discharge, this could be tinged brown or red. Alternatively, you may be completely unaware that you have lost your mucus plug.

Waters breaking

Only around 10 percent of women notice their waters breaking before the onset of labour. For most, labour is well underway before their waters break. The water is actually amniotic fluid released when the amniotic sac ruptures. If your waters do break first, this is a good indicator that labour will start within 24 hours.

The amniotic fluid should be clear. If it is tinged yellow, green or brown, it has your baby’s first bowel movement, meconium, in it. This could indicate that your baby is in distress, or could cause respiratory problems for baby after birth. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if there is meconium present in the amniotic fluid.

Bathroom breaks

As the baby prepares for the journey down the birth canal, you may feel pressure on your bowel or bladder which can result in a desperate need to visit the bathroom. This is normal, and is your body’s way of clearing your digestive system and ensuring baby has as much space as possible. Some women experience diarrhea during early labour, this is caused by labour hormones, and is another way of ensuring the baby’s route is free for the birth.


The best way to find out whether labour has started, is to keep track of your contractions. If your contractions vary in length, are irregular and felt in the lower abdomen, it is probably false labour. While the name is disheartening, these contractions are actually very important. False labour contractions are thought to stretch the lower uterus in preparation for birth, and begin the process of dilating the cervix. Your cervix will be 4cm dilated before you are considered to be in labour, so there is a lot of preparation work to be done.

The contractions of real labour occur at regular intervals, and will grow stronger, longer and more frequent over time. They are more intense than false labour contractions, and are usually felt in the lower back. Ask your birth partner to keep track of your contraction times so that you can determine when labour has started. When the contractions last at least 45 seconds, and occur every 5 minutes, it’s time to head to hospital – it’s almost time to meet your baby.

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Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.