Telling if you are in labor is not always easy and can be different from one woman to the other. Labor is usually defined as contractions which makes the cervix change and open it up.
1. Contractions. The most tell tale sign of pregnancy are regular and strong contractions. Labor contractions last usually more than 30 seconds and come regularly and more frequently than every 4-5 minutes. If these contractions increase or charge to a more patterned set of contractions, labor could be starting. (WARNING: If you are under 37 weeks pregnant do NOT wait for regular contractions to start but let your doctor know right away if you have ANY contractions, usually more than 4-5 per hour)
2. Back Pain. While back pain is normal during pregnancy, when labor begins this pain will be more pronounced and could pulse with the contractions. Any change in back pain during the pregnancy needs to be talked over with the obstetrician.
3. Feeling of Fullness / Pressure: There is a very clear feeling of pressure when baby is ready to be born. This pressure often feels like mom needs to have a bowel movement.
4. Drop of the Pregnant Tummy: The tummy will clearly drop when the last days of pregnancy arrive. This drop will relieve some of the pressure on the stomach and the lungs so mom may be able to eat more and breathe more easily.
5. Loss of Cervical Plug: The plug that blocks the end of the cervix will fall out before labor but not always. Losing the cervical plug may mean that you are going into labor soon, though it can happen many days prior to labor. This plug will appear the same as ovulation only thicker. Most of the time the plug is lost during a trip to the bathroom, but can fall out and appear in the panties.
6. Leaking of Fluid or Breaking the Bag of Waters: The amniotic sac will leak or break when labor is about to begin. If there is any fluid leaking from the vagina, the obstetrician needs to be notified immediately. Once this sac is broken, birth is the only option. If there is a green or brown color to the fluid, go to the emergency room as baby may have had a bowel movement in utero.
7. Cramping or Bloody Discharge: The first labor pains may feel like menstrual cramps. If there is a slight bloody discharge this could also be associated with the loss of the cervical plug.
8. Increase in Blood Pressure: When the body kicks into labor, the blood pressure will rise a bit.
9. Weight Loss: Commonly women who are about to go into labor will lose between one and three pounds. This weight is pure water weight.
10. Nausea and / or Vomiting: The female body is one smart thing. Right before labor begins; the body will "feel" something about to happen and may decide to empty all stomach contents. This emptying may appear as diarrhea or vomiting.
11. Crowning: For women who have given birth before, the signs of labor may be less hectic than first time mothers. If mom waits too long, the baby may actually crown on the way to the hospital to diagnose labor. Crowing is preceded by dilation and the breaking of the bag of waters.
12. Sudden Burst of Energy: The body will lose a bit of weight right before labor begins, the tummy falls a bit and mom may feel like she has more energy than ever before. This increase in energy is often associated with the nesting instinct.