Many people don’t know the difference between being in true or false labor. I can say from experience there is a difference, and you can tell the difference when you feel it. Either way, be excited because you must be very close to holding your baby soon! Are there any signs that labor is near or approaching? Great question, usually, before labor begins, there are signs that signal it is near. They are not easily noticeable, but if you have the knowledge to search for them, you will be able to recognize them. Keep reading to learn about labor including the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
Remember labor is different for everyone, but sometimes the symptoms are similar. I know pregnancy can be very hard at the end. Back pain, varicose veins, and sleepless nights are all bothering you right now, but keep in mind soon you will have your baby!
If you are very eager on starting labor ask your doctor for a membrane sweep. That’s what I did, and it worked! I went into labor twice right after a membrane sweep. I lost my mucus plug and had a bloody show after both, and then ended up with contractions a few hours later.
In this post, the following will be discussed.
- When will I go into labor?
- What is false labor, and how to recognize it?
- Signs That Labor Is 24 to 48 Hours Away
- How to recognize actual labor?
- When to go to the hospital?
- What to do before giving birth?
Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. You should ask your doctor about anything you want to know. This is just information to be read and should not be taken as any type of advice.
When will I go into labor?
Your doctor will give you your due date after your first ultrasound. It is an estimate of when you will give birth, and it is calculated using the first day of your last period. However, again it is just an estimation. They don’t know exactly when you ovulated and pregnancies are not exactly 9 months. When your baby is ready, he/she will signal your body.
Approximately only 5 percent of women actually give birth on their due dates. That is crazy, right! Once your water breaks, or you feel contractions that is when you should call labor and delivery and explain to them your symptoms. Make sure you have timed your contractions for at least an hour before calling. If the doctors agree that you may be in labor, they will tell you to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, sometimes you are told to go to the hospital and you are then asked to leave because you are not in real labor.
Don’t feel ashamed!
This happens to many women and you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed for thinking you are in labor. Many false labor symptoms are similar to actual labor. Also, doctors send many women back every day, you are not the first one and you will not be the last. Keep your head high, stay strong because soon you will be in the hospital for actual labor.
What is false labor, and how to recognize it?
When you feel very painful contractions, sometimes your body is just preparing for labor. These symptoms usually confuse a mother and may lead her to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, she will be sent back with no progressing dilation. To avoid this from occurring, continue reading.
The following symptoms are not part of the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away. They are indicators that it is not the real thing.
The length of contractions and the time between them is irregular. They may stay weak, or begin strong but get weaker. They may be ten minutes apart and then become 7 minutes apart and then suddenly stop for no reason. These contractions are called Braxton hicks contractions. These contractions are usually painless and do not cause any cervical change.
During my first pregnancy, I had false labor for a whole week, and they were actually painful but were making no cervical change. So, keep in mind that Braxton hicks contractions are usually painless, but sometimes they can be very painful.
- Change of Activity Changes Symptoms:
During false labor, taking a bath, walking, or changing positions would decrease the intensity of contractions. It might disappear altogether. Sometimes, dehydration also causes false labor, so keep drinking water.
- Lack of Other Symptoms:
Usually, during false labor, you will not bleed, your water will not break and you will have no abnormal discharge. You will just feel contractions in the abdominal area. They may or may not hurt.
Signs That Labor Is 24 To 48 Hours Away
Yes, the beginning of your weight loss journey begins now. You may lose up to three pounds right before labor. That is because your baby drops causing more pressure on the bladder. Due to this, you begin urinating more. Also, the amniotic fluid around your baby may start to decrease as the baby grows.
During both my pregnancies, I lost weight more than three pounds right before labor. I think it was also due to the fact I was eating less because false labor contractions destroyed my appetite.
If you are interested in how not to gain weight during pregnancy, click here.
Extreme nesting is an extreme amount of energy pregnant women begin to feel which motivates them to clean and get ready for the baby. You might feel this a few weeks before labor or if it’s extreme, it could be right before labor begins. Use this time to wash your babies clothes and add the last touches to your baby’s nursery. Have fun with it! Your baby is coming soon!
I began nesting about one month before my children came. It lasted for a week both times.
If your water breaks, call the doctor right away whether you have contractions or not. They must begin labor soon if contractions don’t follow within 96 hours. If you have signs of infection or the baby is in distress, you will be induced sooner. If your water has a color and is not clear call your doctor right away. It could mean you have meconium in your water meaning the baby pooped in you.
My water did not break before contractions began. In fact, my water broke both times at 10 cm dilated when I was pushing. Unfortunately, my water was filled with meconium. Meconium is a green substance that is released by the baby when he/she makes a bowel movement. If you notice your water is black, brown, or green tell your doctor right away. Luckily, my son did not need aspiration but meconium can cause harm.
Low Back Pain:
Contractions can actually begin in the lower back. Many women have reported this symptom. If you feel the pain come and go, those might be actual contractions. This is sometimes called back labor. The pain can also begin to go down your legs. Back labor is said to hurt more than normal labor. I luckily did not have back labor.
Dilation of Cervix:
You should be seeing a doctor at least once a week now. A dilation of 2 to 3 cm signals labor is very near. Some people stay that dilated for a number of weeks, so it is a good sign but not an accurate one. Effacement is also a good indicator of labor. The more thinned out your cervix is, the closer labor is. From experience, I can tell you walking really helps with this.
I, unfortunately, was dilated at two centimeters for about three weeks. So, keep in mind everyone is different.
Sometimes bloody show and mucus plug are understood wrongly. They are two different things and they both indicate different things.
The bloody show is a great sign that labor is very near (within 48 hours). It refers to vaginal discharge that has blood in it or it could appear like spotting. Usually, it occurs after or during the time you lose your mucus plug. Keep in mind, if you lose your mucus plug your body can regenerate it. So, losing your mucus plug alone is a good sign but it is not a major sign. Some people lose parts of their plug throughout their entire pregnancy.
The mucus plug is discharge made from mucus that the cervix secretes in order to protect the baby from bacteria and other harmful pathogens. It kind of creates a plug that closes the uterus. You usually lose parts of it when your cervix begins to dilate. It kind of looks like a huge chunk of clear discharge sometimes with blood in it. The cervix is filled with blood vessels so when it gets irritated they pop.
Some women may not notice losing their mucus plug either because it came out as parts or it fell in the toilet. It could also be wiped off without being noticed. If you are interested in knowing how it looks like, check out this forum.
Increases Amount of False Labor Contractions:
False labor contractions are contractions that prepare your body for the actual thing. You can identify false labor by measuring the number of contractions you have over a period of time. If they are irregular or becoming weaker with time, it might not be the actual thing. Use an app with a contraction calculator to help you determine whether they are frequent or not. I recommend using glow. It is the one I used, and I loved it.
Right before labor, your body releases a hormone called relaxin which loosens your joints. It does this in order to help the body go through labor. The hormone relaxin can cause diarrhea.
I remember having diarrhea for about a week before labor both times. I knew both times that I was approaching labor.
How to recognize actual labor? Signs That Labor Is Sooner than 24 to 48 Hours Away.
Usually, this stage is the first stage of labor. Active labor is easier to identify because it hurts like hell.
The first stage includes the early and active stage of labor which can last up to 20 hours or more. It involves the dilation of the cervix from 1 cm to 10 cm. This can take a lot of time. Some women stay over 24 hrs just dilating. You may be given Pitocin to help speed things up.
Once the cervix dilates to 6 cm, you enter the active stage which involves very strong contractions. It will get harder to talk during the contractions and walking will be almost impossible. Just keep breathing and focus on inhaling and exhaling. Taking labor courses before labor can help you through this stage. Also, keep someone supportive around you.
The second stage of labor is the birth of your baby. This is much shorter than the first stage. The contraction will hurt but pushing your baby will help manage your pain. First-time moms usually push for one to two hours.
I pushed for about one hour and a half during my first labor. I pushed for 16 minutes during my second.
The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta which you may not even notice happening because you will be holding your baby and trying to breastfeed. Your doctor meanwhile will stitch you up if needed.
I had one of my babies during covid, and I didn’t have anyone to stay with me in the hospital. My husband had to take care of my toddler since toddlers were not allowed in the hospital. We had no family members in the area to help and no nanny. So, I went to the hospital alone and had to do everything alone, but my doctors were amazing and supportive.
The following symptoms are indicators of actual labor.
- Heavy Bloody Discharge:
You may see blood, the mucus plug, and discolored discharge. This means that labor is very near. Call a doctor if blood clots are coming out. This may indicate there is something more serious. Call when in doubt, better safe than sorry.
Contractions will start off weak and increase with time. Whether you take a bath, change positions, or walk, nothing will decrease the intensity of contractions. They will become longer and get closer together. They would last between 30-70 seconds and come every 5 minutes or less. As they intensify, you may not be able to talk during them, and breathing may be a bit harder. Walking will not ease the pain. Drinking water won’t either. Stay positive and hang in there.
- Water Breaks:
Your water may or may not break. My water broke when I was in the pushing stage both times. If your water does break, call the doctor even if you don’t have contractions.
You may have a backache that will get extremely worse and lead to contractions if it is not contractions already. This can be called back labor as mentioned beforehand.
When should you go to the hospital?
- If this is your first baby, then you should go to the hospital when your contractions last for more than 45 seconds, and between each contraction is 3-5 minutes. Calculate the amount of time between your home and hospital.
I had to drive for 15 minutes and it was the worse 15 minutes of my life because I had to top on the highway to vomit. A bit of advice: Keep a plastic bag in your car for vomiting.
- If this is not your first baby, then you should go to the hospital when your contractions last more than 45 seconds and between each contraction is 5-7 minutes.
My first labor was about 12 hours. My second was also about 12 hours. But, many women have faster second labors, so keep that in mind.
If you don’t know hen to go, call labor and delivery. They will help you!
What to do before giving birth?
You should have the following ready as soon as possible. It would be better to have them ready at least when you begin feeling the signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
- Have your birth plan ready.
Not having one was my choice because I just wanted everything to go with the flow. I did end up having an epidural with both. I couldn’t handle the pain.
- Write down the labor and delivery phone number.
I didn’t do this and ended up looking for it while in extreme pain.
- Have your hospital bag prepared.
Place it in your car beforehand. It would be easier.
- Place the car seat in the car.
You cannot leave the hospital without it. It is a legal requirement.
- Wash all baby clothes and sheets.
- Plan ahead of time.
Think about the things that can go wrong and find solutions.
Keep these questions in mind and plan ahead “Who will take you to the hospital? Who will stay with you at the hospital? Who will take care of your other kids?”
- Make sure your phone and camera are always charged.
- Eat before going to the hospital.
They will not let you eat for a while. You can drink water and eat ice chips.
The following are posts you may be interested in. There are much more, just go to www.cryingtoddlers.com and you will find many articles to help you through the journey of pregnancy and motherhood.
Feel free to leave a comment. We appreciate engagement. What are some signs you had before going into labor? Let’s share our experience and help other first-time mommies out there.
Hope you have a safe labor and delivery and have a healthy beautiful baby! Congratulations! Welcome to motherhood!
For more information, watch this video “Signs That Labor Is 24 to 48 Hrs Away”