Giving birth is something that expectant parents tend to look forward to and dread at the same time. It is hard to know when you will go into labor and the suspense can be hard to handle. You may also be wondering what is prelabour and when you are actually ready to give birth. Prelabour is simply a warning sign that labor will begin shortly and once you know what to look for, you will be ready to recognize it and prepare.

What Is Pre Labor?

Pre labour is also known as prodromal labour. It is when your body gets prepared for labor and gives you signs about the coming labor. You may have heard prelabour referred to as false labour which starts like traditional labor, but doesn't lead to birth.

Although prelabour always occurs, not everyone will notice it. Pre labor refers to the cluster of physical symptoms that a woman may experience before going into the "true" labor, like Braxton Hicks contractions, increases in blood volume, colostrum in her breasts and the mucus plug dislodging.

What Are the Signs of Pre Labor?


The Baby Drops

Baby drops during pre labour is also known as lightening and engagement. In other words, the baby begins to sit lower down than before, and this typically happens about 2 to 4 weeks before you go into labor. The baby will typically only drop if it is your first birth, which can help you to catch your breath easily.


Increased Practice Contractions

Practice contractions, or Braxton Hicks contractions, tend to become more intense and frequent when true labor gets closer. They may take place as frequently as each 10 or 20 minutes, making some women believe that they are farther along than pre labour. In reality, if your contractions don't increase in strength and length, the time between them doesn't reduce, and your cervix doesn't become dilated, you are probably still in pre labor.


Increased Pressure on the Pelvis and Rectum

Other common signs of pre labour are groin pain and cramping reminiscent of those sensations during the menstrual cycle. These are particularly common if you have already given birth in the past.


Blood Show

When your cervix dilates and thins, it is common for small blood vessels in the cervix to rupture, and this will either streak the mucus with blood or tint it pink. This sign of prelabor typically indicates that you will go into labor within 24 hours, although it may still be several days in some cases.


Loss of Mucus Plug

The mucus plug is a tiny quantity of mucus which seals the cervix during the entire pregnancy. It is possible to lose this plug when labor begins or a full one or two weeks before you notice any indications of true labor. The plug is released because when the cervix dilates and thins, the plug can’t fill the space anymore due to its larger size. It may appear slowly in your vaginal discharge over the course of a few days or come out completely at one time.


Water Breaking

Water breaking, or the rupture of membranes, occurs when the amniotic sac within the uterus bursts and releases the amniotic fluid. This may happen if the baby's head pushes through these membranes or if there is a strong contraction. It usually comes with watery discharge coming from the vagina in a gush or a trickle. It is common for contractions to increase in intensity afterwards. It is possible for the water to break during, before or after labor, but you should always contact your doctor when it does.


Nauseous Feeling

It is very common for women to experience nausea and vomiting during the labor process. This frequently occurs during pre labour, but it will more commonly occur within the first active stage of labor or the transition. Anytime that you are continuously vomiting and can't keep food down, you should contact your doctor so you can rehydrate.



A classic indication of pre labor is diarrhea or loose bowel movements because your bowel is stimulated when the cervix ripens. This process allows the body to become empty before active labor starts and diarrhea should settle down once you enter a strong, established labor.


Other Pre labour Signs

  • When labor gets closer, it is common for women to notice changes in their energy levels; they may become more energetic or more fatigued.

  • It is also possible to notice nesting, which is the irresistible desire to clean your home or refrigerator to prepare for the baby.

  • Women may also notice vaginal discharge that is pink-tinged or an egg-white consistency during pre labor, which is different from losing the mucus plug and the bloody show.

Pre Labor Vs. True Labor

If this is your first baby, it can be tricky to know whether you are in prelabour or labor. Talk to your midwife or doctor about labor symptoms before going to the hospital. First time mothers frequently make multiple trips to the hospital. If you are one of them and sent home due to early labor, you may find it helpful to listen to music, drink fluids, rest, shower or walking.

The only sure way to tell true labor from pre labor is via an internal examination of your cervix. Contractions associated with true labor will be hard to talk through, strong, closer together, and last longer as your labor progresses. This also causes changes to your cervix as it thins out and opens up to encourage your baby to descend through the pelvis.


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