Signs That Labor Will Begin in 24 to 48 Hours

When you're getting close to your baby's due date, each day can feel like a hundred. Time flies by, just like calls from well-intentioned family members inquiring if you're still expecting. You'll need a sign (anything!) to let you know that labor is on its way. But are there any signals that labor will start in the next 24 to 48 hours?

"When it comes to labor, there are no hard and fast laws. It's entirely up to you. "If you take ten ladies and ask them what it was like before they went into labor — even between pregnancies," says OB/GYN Jonathan Emery, MD.

But don't despair! According to Dr. Emery, there are four early indicators of labor that you may experience.

There are four early indicators of labor.

The signs of impending labor are a bit of a changing target. There is no step-by-step guide to how it all happens, and the only certainty is that your experience will be unique to you.

"The frequency and strength of contractions determine labor," explains Dr. Emery. "However, some bodily manifestations occur throughout that period."

1. Constipation

Some women have cramps similar to those associated with menstruation. "These cramps are not the same as Braxton Hicks," explains Dr. Emery, "which are usually harmless fake contractions that develop as the uterus tightens." "These cramps that seem like they're from your period could be the start of moderate contractions."  They aren't excruciating, but they are apparent. They may come and go over a few hours or even days. 

2. Pressure in the pelvis

You may notice pressure in your vaginal or pelvic area. "This could be caused by 'lightning,' which occurs when the baby falls out of the abdomen. According to Dr. Emery, some women experience lightening as pelvic pressure or even low back discomfort. "However, some women don't experience this dip until they're already in labor."

3. Mucus plug obliteration

Some women detect a shift in their vaginal discharge, which could indicate that their mucus plug has passed. The mucus plug is a plug of mucus that forms a seal around the opening of the cervix. It aids in protecting the infant from harmful microorganisms outside of the uterus. You may lose the mucus plug (also known as bloody show) in one blob or gradually as the cervix opens in preparation for labor.

"For many years, people believed that if a woman passed her mucus plug, she would go into labor in a particular number of days. However, we now know that a bloody show may be generic. You can shed the mucus plug and not go into labor, and the mucus can even build up in the cervix."

4. Variations in vaginal discharge

You may notice various changes in your vaginal discharge even if the mucus plug remains intact. "Before labor begins or during the early stages, it can become more watery, stickier, thicker, or even a little pink," explains Dr. Emery.

Other signals that labor is on the way

While there are other possible labor symptoms, according to Dr. Emery, they are less scientifically supported. These are some of the indications of labor:


The location of your baby causes lightning crotch pain (sharp, searing, or shooting nerve pain in your pelvis).

Loose stools or diarrhoea.

An unexpected rush of energy (which Dr. Emery says is often associated with nesting, or the strong desire to get your home ready for a baby). "Some women may experience one or more of these labor indicators, but there's no conclusive evidence that they're linked to pre-labor or early labor."

What to do if you think you're about to give birth

Dr. Emery recommends timing your contractions if you think labor has begun. Call your prenatal provider if they occur every five minutes and are so severe that you can't move or talk. The waiting game has finally come to an end!

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