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The finish line is in sight and if you are like most pregnant women you are probably overwhelmed with feelings of excitement, nerves, exhaustion and probably looking forward to no longer being pregnant!
You will be hoping that every twinge or pain is the start of labor or at least a sign that labor is only a day or two away.
To help you navigate this difficult time and provide you with some signs to look out for we have looked at 12 signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
But as labor is different for each and every woman there is no guarantee that what you experience on your way to labor and in fact during labor is what we have covered.
You may not be able to accurately predict the exact time and date that labor will start your body may well give you some great signs that it is on its way in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Table of Contents
Signs That Labor is 24 to 48 Hours Away
1. Loss of mucus plug
The mucus plug is created by your body from conception and is actually a collection of mucus that blocks the entrance to your cervix. It is there to protect your baby from harmful bacteria and germs.
Some women notice when they lose this plug but many others do not. Some women have seen it drop into the toilet, some have wiped it away after using the toilet, and others have felt it in their underwear.
If you lose your mucus plug it means your cervix is ripening in readiness for birth and that it could just be hours away. But it could also mean that labor is as long away as 1-2 weeks.
2. Bloody Show
This term is often used interchangeably with mucus plug but they are slightly different. Your mucus plug is transparent and contains little to no blood while the bloody show is mucus tinged with red or brown blood.
If you have a bloody show, it means that you have already lost your mucus plug and that your cervix is getting ready for labor.
3. Weight loss
Weight loss is not something that most expectant mothers expect to experience. But it is not uncommon for mothers to 1 to 3 pounds 1 or 2 days before going into labor.
This is not fat that you are losing but it is your body getting rid of any excess water. It is often due to less amniotic fluid towards the end of the pregnancy, and the need to pee more often as your baby drops in readiness for labor.
As the baby moves to this lower position it puts increasing pressure on your bladder.
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Many women experience this nesting instinct when they are pregnant. Nesting is an overwhelming need to get the house ready for the baby and is common during the third trimester.
Nesting may lead you to start cleaning, organizing, setting up the nursery, and making sure everything is just right.
But about 24 to 48 hours before labor, your body kind of goes into panic mode and you may suddenly get a huge burst of energy and the desire to clean and organize everything.
5. Extreme Fatigue
This is a real design flaw, just as you are about to go through one of the most exhausting experiences of your life your body thinks that it is a good time for a little dose of fatigue!
So not only are you not getting enough sleep, you are extremely uncomfortable but now just before the big day you are also exhausted.
This happens because your body is sending out an extra dose of relaxin to all your muscles leading up to birth. All your muscles, which means this also includes your rectum muscles.
But this is your body’s way of getting rid of everything that it doesn’t need before you give birth and there is less chance of you pooping during delivery!
7. Lower back pain
Back pain is quite common while you are pregnant but if you begin to experience a dull back pain that doesn’t go away this could well be a sign of labor.
If the pain does go away after you have moved or adjusted yourself there is a good chance that it is just Braxton Hicks or irregular contraction.
But if you are having any kind of pain or have any doubts about what is going on, do contact a medical practitioner.
8. Ripened cervix
By the time you are close to giving birth, you should be seeing your doctor very often. At each visit, they will check to see if your cervix is dilated at all. If you are dilated 3cm or more, this can mean that you are going to go into labor very soon.
9. Water breaking
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This does not always happen and only 15 -20% of women experience their water breaking before labor starts.
If your water does break and I mean full on gush, you need to make a note of the time and be prepared to start timing contractions and also be aware that your baby could very well be on their way.
You will also need to avoid sitting in any water that could get inside you as your baby is no longer protected from the germs.
There are two types of contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions, and real contractions. Here is how to tell the difference between the two types:
- Contractions are irregular and infrequent.
- They last for only 15-30 seconds
- They subside if you change position
- Usually are only felt in the front.
- Real contractions consistently get stronger and more frequent.
- They can last between 30-70 seconds each.
- They do not go away if you change position.
- Usually, they start in the back and wrap around the belly.
11. The baby drops
One weird wives tale is that you can tell the sex of the baby based on how low or high they’re carrying.
It is obviously not true but you can sometimes predict how soon labor might start after the baby drops, this process is called lightening. This happens when your baby moves into the pelvis and is preparing for his imminent birth.
You may notice that your bump changes shape, you may have a little more waddle in your walk and you will be spending a lot more time in the bathroom as those pee break s become even more frequent.
12. Joints feel looser
Right before you go into labor you may notice that all your joints feel a little looser and not so tight.
This is due to your body releasing the hormone relaxin which allows your ligaments to loosen up a little and your pelvis to expand for imminent birth.
When To Go To The Hospital For Labor
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A general rule is that you should start making your way to the hospital when your contractions are about 4-5 minutes apart and last about 45-60 seconds and remain this way for an hour.
But if this is not your first labor be prepared that your labor will move quicker than your previous ones. If you are in any doubts, contact your medical practitioner for advice.
What Is False Labor?
False labor is a common occurrence as you approach full term. You have no doubt felt one or two Braxton Hicks contractions over your pregnancy, but false labor is a little more intense.
These warm-up contractions often happen at night or after strenuous exercise when you are dehydrated. This kind of false labor is somewhere in between Braxton Hicks and real labor.
You may actually feel that you are in labor as you experience multiple contractions. For many women, this kind of false labor can be totally real, painful, and strong but it won’t lead to an imminent birth.
The Four Stages Of Labor
There are four stages of labor, thinning and opening, the baby moves through the birth canal, after birth, and recovery. Here is some more information about each stage of labor.
Stage One – Thinning and Opening
During this first stage of labor, your contracting help your cervix to thin and begin to open, this is known as effacement and dilation.
The first stage of labor has three parts:
1. Early Labor
You will usually spend most of your early labor at home. Try to keep busy going about your usual activities. During this time your cervix will open to around 4 centimeters.
Relax, rest, drink clear fluids, and enjoy some light meals if you feel up to it. You also need to keep track of your contractions, how long they last how frequent they are, and if they are getting stronger.
Once your contractions become stronger, last longer or there is less time between them it means you are probably moving into active labor. By this time you usually can not talk during a contraction.
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2. Active Labor
This is when you should start heading to the hospital once your contractions are very 3-4 minutes and last about 60 seconds.
By now your cervix will be between 4-7 centimeters and the increase in the strength and frequency of your contractions will more than likely mean that your cervix is opening faster than 1 centimeter per hour.
As your labor progresses you may feel your bag of waters break, this may feel like a sudden gush of fluid. Once your waters have broken your contractions will usually speed up, becoming more frequent and stronger.
3. Transition To the Second Stage
For most women, this is the most difficult stage of labor. It is the most painful and can be very extremely tiring.
Your cervix is now open to 7-10 centimeters, open to its fullest. At this point, contractions last about 60 -90 seconds and are coming every 2 to 3 minutes.
There is very little time to rest between contractions and many women can become overwhelmed by the pain of their contractions.
Stage Two – Baby Moves Through The Birth Canal
Once your cervix is completely open the second stage of labor will begin. This stage ends with the birth of your baby.
Your contractions push your baby down the birth canal, at this time you may feel intense pressure very similar to when you need a bowel movement.
Stage Three – Afterbirth
Once your baby is born your uterus will continue to contract in order to push out the placenta. This normally takes about 5 to 15 minutes after the baby arrives.
Stage Four – Recovery
This is the stage where your baby is born, your placenta has been delivered and you will probably feel both exhausted and elated.
Now is the time for you and your partner to enjoy your beautiful baby together.
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The Final Thought
Pregnancy is a wonderful and remarkable time in your life but it is also a stage that most women are glad to see the end of and finally get to hold their baby.
These last few weeks are filled with mixed emotions – the excitement of holding your baby for the first time and the fear of having to go through labor.
Although it is difficult to predict when labor will start, listen to your body it knows what it is doing.