For new moms, the signs of early labor might be missed. Know the signs and have a plan. At your prenatal visits, talk to your provider about your wishes for pain medications and delivery options. Know what hospital you are going to, have a bag packed, and have someone ready to take you.

Early Signs of Labor

While pretern labor can happen to anyone, women who have had preterm births are more likely to have preterm labor. The early signs of labor may include:

  • Dull backache  or changes in your usual backache
  • Changes in feelings of pressure as the baby drops
    • Pelvis or lower abdominal heaviness (but may be easier to breathe)
    • Lower back, hips, groin, upper legs
  • Loose stools can happen due to a change in hormones or from the new position of the baby
  • Changes in the color, nature, or amount of vaginal discharge
    • Passing of bloody/brown mucus (mucus plug) as the cervix changes
    • Any bleeding
  • Breaking of the water
    • Once your water breaks (a trickle, slow leak, or gush), you should deliver within 24 hours to prevent the risk of infection
    • Water (amniotic fluid) should be clear color, call your provider as you go to the hospital if it is yellow, green, or brown since it may indicate fetal distress
  • Repeated abdominal or uterine tightening after the first trimester
    • May be painless or feel like menstrual cramps
    • Pay attention to how often they happen and call your provider
  • Changes in the uterus may happen without pain or sensation.
    • Thinning or shortening of the cervix
    • Dilation or opening of the cervix

You should have a birth plan for delivery, getting to the hospital, pain medications, feeding the baby, and visitors. Share your birth plan with your partner and your health care provider.

You can find more information about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.