Signs of labor

A male doctor meets with a pregnant woman and her female partner.

Is today the day the baby comes? Every mom has a different labor experience—some start with your water breaking, you may have a daylong backache that turns into contractions, or contractions could start suddenly without any warning!

What are the stages of labor

There are three stages of labor. During the first stage, the cervix thins and dilates, and contractions begin. The second stage involves pushing the baby through your birth canal. The third stage is the shortest and easiest: cutting the umbilical cord and expelling the placenta.

Learn more about the stages of labor.


How do I know if I’m in labor?

There are a lot of different signs that you could be in labor, some more obvious than others. If you think you’re in labor, call your doctor, midwife or nurse line. They can answer any questions about when you should come to the hospital. 

Possible signs of labor 

  • Nagging backache causing restlessness and a need to keep changing positions. 
  • Several soft bowel movements, and sometimes feeling “sick” in your stomach. 
  • Cramps that may feel like period cramping, and the discomfort may go into the thighs of your legs.
  • Unusual bursts of energy commonly called “nesting”.

Early signs

  • Slippery mucus discharge from the vagina that has hints of pink or red blood, sometimes called “bloody show”.
  • Contractors that are present, but do not become longer, or stronger (or are non-progressing).

Positive signs of labor

  • Fluid leaking from the vagina that cannot be controlled, like when going pee. Or a gush of clear fluid suddenly. This is called a “rupture of the membranes” or “water breaking”.
  • Contractions that do start to feel stronger, or become longer, and more often. 

Learn more about how to tell if you’re in labor.