the telltale signs: how to know when labour has started

In the third trimester, your body is a busy hive of activity, what with all the tiny bump kicks and pesky aches. Not only are you feeling increasingly front-heavy, but little extras like heartburn (joy) and baby dropping right onto your bladder (ooph) tend to boost your discomfort levels. When you're feeling the strain from head to toe, how are you meant to see the early signs of labour approaching?

To help you prepare for baby's arrival, here's my guide to those telltale pre-labour signs.

expectant mum pondering the signs of labour


When you need it most, you can’t get it – typical eh? You might have had trouble dropping off for a while, what with bump getting so big and all those night-time trips to the loo. Yes, sleepless nights when you're expecting are often down to being uncomfortable, but sudden insomnia in late pregnancy can be a sign of labour, too. Especially if it's accompanied by a nervous feeling.

Of course, you’ll need as much energy as you can get when the time comes, so do your best to fend off insomnia by trying to relax (easier said than done, I know). Though it's recommended not to drink more than four cups of herbal tea a day during pregnancy, a cup or two of soothing chamomile tea could help you to nod off. Oh, and cut down on screen time before bed – it's important to switch off...

upset tummy

A dodgy tummy is never fun, especially right before labour. However, it's just your body’s way of, ahem, clearing things out before you have to push. Make sure you have plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

lower back pain or period-type cramps

Towards the end of your 40 weeks, lower back pain or period-type cramps can be signs of labour approaching. They might be mild at first so don’t jump the gun and rush straight to hospital just yet – if it’s manageable, take the edge off the ache at home with a hot water bottle.

the show

Nobody mentioned this yet? The bloody show is when the mucus plug or discharge that’s been sitting against your cervix for your entire pregnancy comes away in anticipation of labour. (It sounds worse than it is, I promise!)

So what does a show look like? It’s a little bit of jelly-like mucus that’s pink in colour that some women pass out of their vagina at some point during the process. It’s pink because it has a little blood in it, which is completely normal. If you lose more blood, don’t hesitate to contact your midwife as it could mean something’s not quite right.

braxton hicks

When your Braxton Hicks contractions start to intensify, it means the show (please excuse the pun) is about to hit the road. They’re helping to thin out and open up your cervix. You’ll know when they’ve turned into ‘real’ contractions when they're evenly spaced (say five minutes apart), painful and feel like they're coming in waves.

waters break

Although the breaking of the amniotic sac sometimes happens early on before labour begins, most often it's towards the end of the first stage of labour. It’ll probably be straw-coloured and might have a little blood in it, which is nothing to worry about. You’re more prone to infection after this, so get checked out by your midwife if labour takes a while to kick in.


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