Labor & Delivery

What Are Signs Of Labor?

What are signs that I’m going into labor? How can I tell the difference between the real thing and a false alarm?

Photo: Emily Burke Photography

What are signs that I’m going into labor? How can I tell the difference between the real thing and a false alarm?

You've been anticipating this moment for the last nine months; no wonder you're worried about missing the early signs of labor. How will you know when it’s time to grab your hospital bag and get to the delivery room? Look for these signs of imminent labor:

Blood-tinged discharge

Sometimes called the “bloody show,” this discharge occurs when labor is anywhere from minutes to hours away.

Expulsion of the mucus plug

This thick, mucus-like membrane could come off all at once or when you are using the bathroom — or even little by little like a thick discharge.

Rupturing of the amniotic sac (aka water breaking)

If your water breaks, you’ll likely know it. You’ll feel a gushing sensation and then you’ll see a lot of fluid. If you’re feeling a trickle and don’t know if it’s just pee or if it could possibly be leaking amniotic fluid, call your doctor or midwife. In very few cases, amniotic fluid leaks slowly before labor. You’ll need to be tested at your doctor’s office or the hospital.

Nesting instinct

If you find yourself with a sudden burst of energy and the need to clean and scrub your house spotless, baby soon may be on the way!

Regular contractions

False labor pains are easy to confuse with the real labor contractions but they do have some distinct characteristics. If the contractions are irregular, centered in your lower abdomen or don't worsen over time, it might be a false alarm. Try changing position or walking around — does the pain recede a little? Probably not the real thing. True contractions are regular, have an obvious increase and decrease during fetal activity, and are centered in your pelvic area.

Don't spend too much time analyzing, though — if you think you're in the early stages of labor, pick up the phone and call your doctor.

Want to know more? Our experts have the answers to your labor and delivery questions.

Think you're in labor now? Time your contractions with our Contraction Counter tool.

By The Bump Editors