I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve probably found yourself googling, “Is XYZ a sign of labor?”. And there are actually quite a few weird things that happen before labor!
The anticipation of meeting your little one soon can definitely cause mamas to be on high alert for any sort of body changes. And this is a good thing! It’s great to be in tune with your body, especially during pregnancy.
Aside from the obvious signs of labor: contractions and water breaking (which isn’t always as obvious as you might think!) there are quite a few other things that can give you a clue that labor is near!
Ready to learn more about insanely weird things that (might) happen as your body nears eviction day? Let’s go!
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Yep, this is common! As your body nears term and prepares for labor, many women experience diarrhea (loose stools) and changes in their bowel movements.
Why? Well, diarrhea often occurs because of a surge in the hormone relaxin. It does exactly what it sounds like – relaxes your bowel muscles, which can cause you to have diarrhea. When that happens you may experience some nausea, which leads me to my next point…
2. Nausea and vomiting
Just in case you didn’t get your fill in during your first trimester, this might be your chance. Okay, sorry, if you currently find yourself experiencing these less-than-pleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, you probably didn’t find that one funny, ha!
But such is pregnancy.
You can thank your hormones for this one too. As pregnancy progresses the hormone progesterone causes our gastrointestinal (GI) muscles to relax in preparation for birth.
Progesterone, which also promotes smooth muscle relaxation, causes the digestion process to slow, which can cause what we refer to in our house as the “tummy troubles”.
3. Increase in vaginal and pelvic pressure
Whoa, baby is low! In the weeks leading up to labor, baby will descend deeper into the pelvis causing a ton of pressure in your vagina and pelvis.
Even though it’s uncomfortable for you, mama, your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to get ready for labor!
Here are some things that can help you cope with the pressure:
- Belly support bands
- Pelvic exercises like pelvic tilts and rolls
- Prenatal yoga
- Frequently changing positions and avoiding sudden movements
- Sitting on a birthing ball
Speaking of birthing balls, there are so many things you can do with a birthing ball during pregnancy, labor, and even postpartum.
So many things that I actually created an entire blog article dedicated to this topic. If you are looking for ways to use your birthing ball, please read Birthing Balls for Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum.
Important note: if you are experiencing severe pelvic pressure or pain, especially if it is occurring with contractions, vaginal bleeding, leakage of fluid, or any changes in fetal movement, be sure to notify your provider immediately.
While some pelvic pressure is expected during pregnancy (especially in the third trimester!) the pressure should not be severe.
4. Mood swings
I have one word to explain this one: hormones. Okay, so maybe I actually have more than just one word, but like most things that happen during pregnancy, you have hormones to thank.
The body goes through some pretty intense hormonal changes in the couple weeks leading up to labor, so it makes perfect sense why the end of pregnancy might seem even more emotionally charged.
Not only are your hormones on a rollercoaster ride, but the normal emotions leading up to labor, birth, and expanding your family are also in play!
5. Lightning crotch
Lightning what? Believe it or not, it’s actually a thing! Lightning crotch is a sudden, sharp pain in the vagina that many mamas start to feel in the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. Most report that it increases in frequency and intensity as their due date nears.
While it only lasts a few seconds, most describe it as feeling like an electrical shock or when you hit your funny bone, and it typically comes on without any warning. There’s no clear reason why lightning crotch occurs but many believe it is due to the increasing pressure baby’s head puts on your pelvis, vagina, and cervix. So, it makes sense why it may occur more frequently closer to your due date.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent lightning crotch from occurring. Some mamas report that a belly band does help to relieve some of the pressure on the pelvis. You can also try changing positions to get baby to move off the nerve that is being aggravated.
Lightning crotch got you intrigued? You can read everything you’ve ever wanted to know about it (and more) here!
6. Nesting: a burst of energy
Nesting can happen at any point during pregnancy and if you are currently pregnant or have been pregnant in the past, I’m sure you can attest to this.
Some women get the nesting itch earlier in pregnancy – putting the nursery together, organizing baby’s closet, etc. – but it can come back around towards the end of pregnancy too.
What exactly is nesting?
Nesting: the overwhelming desire to get your home ready for baby! Think of it as visiting that never-ending mental checklist that’s constantly buzzing around in the back of your mind.
Deep clean the entire house? Why the heck not!
Paint or organize cabinets and closet? Never been a better time.
Wash, fold, and hang baby’s clothes in the closet? Well, of course that has to be done before they arrive.
Nesting doesn’t have to be baby-related either; it can really be anything that you want to get done before you go into labor. Maybe it’s something that’s been on your list for months, or heck, even years. Days or weeks before having a baby seems like a great time to make it happen, right?!
Nesting is usually accompanied by a sudden burst of energy. I mean, what very pregnant woman has time to visit things that have been on their to-do list for years if they aren’t feeling an energy surge? Nesting is a very normal pregnancy phenomenon and for many, is a sign that labor is approaching.
I’ve been there before mama, I know how desperate you are to check off everything on your list but remember to rest and save some energy for baby day, too.
7. Losing your mucus plug
Have you heard about a mucus plug? If not, it’s exactly what it sounds like! A thick, sticky glob-like plug that is connected to your cervix and helps seal up your uterus. Sounds sorta gross, doesn’t it? It has a very important purpose during pregnancy though. The mucus plug helps seal your uterus and prevents bacteria from getting in it. This in turn helps protect baby from infection.
Pretty cool, huh? It never fails to amaze me how incredible our bodies are!
Some notice losing their mucus plug and others don’t. Sometimes it comes out in one bigger glob, obviously making it more noticeable. Other times it comes out in smaller pieces, which may make it difficult to differentiate from just normal pregnancy discharge.
Losing your mucus plug is a good sign your body is getting ready for labor, but it’s not necessarily a good prediction of when labor will begin. Some women lose it hours before labor, while others lose it and then don’t go into labor for weeks.
A question I frequently get asked by mamas is, “How can I tell the difference between my mucus plug and bloody show?” Because your mucus plug can also be slightly blood-tinged and similar in texture to blood show, it can be really hard to tell the difference.
Bloody show, a combination of blood and mucus, is a kind of vaginal discharge that is commonly seen during labor. It’s not uncommon to see a little bit of bloody show early in the labor process, but we commonly see it more during active labor (4-7 cm) and transition (7-10 cm) as a result of cervical dilation.
Your body is constantly creating mucus and vaginal discharge during pregnancy, so if you lose your mucus plug (or part of it) and then don’t go into labor for weeks, there is a good chance that it will regenerate before you actually give birth!
8. Increase in vaginal discharge
Along the same lines as losing your mucus plug, an increase in vaginal discharge towards the end of pregnancy might indicate labor is near. You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge that’s clear, pink, or slightly blood-tinged.
This might happen several days before labor begins or right at the start of labor! Many women report the discharge becoming thinner and more watery. And remember, if you feel like your water has broken or are experiencing bright red bleeding, similar to a period, reach out to your provider promptly!
9. Changes in your pet’s behavior
Pretty wild, right? Whether or not you consider yourself a pet person, you have to agree that the things they can train dogs and other animals to do are simply ahhh-mazing!
I mean, they can teach dogs to sniff out a seizure before it even happens – that’s mind-blowing to me. I keep saying dogs because that’s what we have at our house, but dogs and other pets alike have actually been known to exhibit changes in their behavior as their human mom prepares for and gets closer to labor.
While there might not be hard science to back this one up, I have personally heard stories from lots of women that supports this. Anecdotal stories from many mamas suggest that pets can not only sense when their owner is pregnant but also when their owner is about to go into labor.
Commonly noted behaviors in pets include:
- Being more affectionate, cuddly, and clingy
- Being more protective
- Acting out
I’m not recommending you jump in the car and rush to the hospital solely because your pet suddenly won’t leave your side, but it’s definitely something interesting to keep in mind as you get closer to your due date!
And, if you do find yourself pregnant in a dog-friendly home, you will definitely want to give my podcast episode “Dogs + Babies: What Should You Know Bringing Baby Home to Your Dog?” a listen to help you prepare!
10. Back pain
Early labor contractions start in the lower back for some women. Back pain is also a pretty common ailment for women during pregnancy, especially toward the end, so it can be hard to tell the difference between typical pregnancy-related back pain and early labor.
What I usually tell people is that if the pain is coming and going, it may be early labor contractions.
Here are some things you can do to help relieve the pain:
- Use a heating pad on your back
- Take a hot shower or bath
- Sit on a birthing ball
- Change positions or try the Miles Circuit
If you are close to your due date and have never heard of the Miles Circuit, you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with it ASAP!
This three-step sequence is a technique that can be used to get baby into a more optimal position to help jump-start labor and can even be used during labor to help a stalled labor get going again.
I actually used this technique to get myself into labor with my second son. I was 4 days past due, had been having on-and-off contractions all day, and was just plain OVER IT!
There you have it, mama! Were you familiar with any or all of those insanely weird things that happen before labor? Did you experience any of these leading up to your labor?
Some women experience a lot of them, and others don’t have any unusual symptoms, and either is perfectly fine.
Find yourself chugging along through pregnancy and wondering how you can prepare yourself to have an even better birth?
Check out my Birth It Up online birth courses, where there’s a class for every mama!
Other helpful labor and birth preparation resources:
- Prepare for Labor and Birth: 10 Things Not to Skip from an L&D Nurse
- The Facts About True Labor vs. Prodromal Labor (and how to tell the difference!)
- The Very Best Relaxation and Breathing Techniques for Labor: Birth Tips Every Mama Needs!