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Signs of labour

Signs of labour


What is labour and how do I know if it is actually labour?

Labour is the natural process your body goes through to progress towards a vaginal birth.

What are some of the main signs you’re in labour?

Signs that labour may be approaching include increased irritability due to hormonal changes such as your oxytocin levels rising, experiencing loose stools as your body prepares for labour, and the loss of your mucus plug that sits within your cervix during pregnancy, preventing bacteria from making its way to your baby. As your cervix begins to change by thinning and shortening prior to any dilatation, you may notice some mucous coming away either in a clump or smaller bits at a time.

Does losing your mucus plug mean you’re definitely in labour?

The loss of your mucus plug does not necessarily mean imminent labour and it is also very normal if it isn't lost until during labour.

Other signs you may be in labour include feeling energetic with nesting behaviours that have you cleaning and organising things, a heightened sense of smell or hearing due to your senses being on high alert, cramping or lower back pain which you may have experienced all along from the hormone relaxin softening all your ligaments ready for labour, and as your baby becomes increasingly heavy.

Many times labour will start in the back as a dull backache or increased pressure.

Is it labour or Braxton Hicks Contractions?

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between actual labour and Braxton Hicks contractions. Labour pains will become regular, last longer, and intensify, while Braxton Hicks contractions usually stop after a period of time and do not increase in intensity. Labour contractions may feel like pressure in your pelvis with your stomach becoming hard then soft in wave-like motions, similar to that of period cramps.

When should you call your midwife or obstetrician when you’re in labour?

If you experience regular contractions, a watery or bloody vaginal discharge, suspect your waters breaking, notice changes in your baby's movements, experience any bleeding, or have any signs of high blood pressure such as blurred vision, upper abdominal pain, headaches, significant and sudden swelling of your face and/or hands, or need any reassurance, it is recommended to contact your midwife or birth suite. Additionally, if you are booked for a caesarean birth or less than 38 weeks pregnant and experience any signs of labour, it is important to seek medical advice.

When should you go to hospital when you’re in labour?

During this time, it is common for mothers to feel anxious about when to go to the hospital. If you are low risk, it is generally recommended to stay home until your contractions are regular, lasting about a minute, occurring every 5 minutes, and becoming too painful to talk through or if your waters have broken and the fluid coming away is green/yellow or bloody.

At home, you can manage discomfort by moving around, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation and breathing exercises.


5 Signs of Early Labour. (n.d.). Australian Birth Stories. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

7 Signs Labour is Approaching. (2022, March 16). Tiny Hearts.

Pregnancy and Signs of Labor. (n.d.). WebMD.

(Trust), N. (National C. (2019, July 16). First stage of labour: signs, coping and when to go to hospital. NCT (National Childbirth Trust).

(Trust), N. (National C. (2020, December 2). The early signs of labour. NCT (National Childbirth Trust).

The Royal Women's Hospital. (2023). Stages of labour. The Royal Women’s Hospital.

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