The closer you get to your due date, the more hyper-aware you’ll become of every little cramp, gas bubble, or discomfort. You may find yourself wondering several times a day: am I in labour? Is this a sign of labour? Is it finally time? There are so many questions and so much suspense in the last few weeks, but the good news is that your body will begin preparing for birth long before you’re actually in labour. Here are some signs of labour that you may (or may not!) experience in the weeks before your baby arrives.

1. Signs of Labour: Back Pain and Period Cramps

More often than not, our clients tell us that one of their first signs of labour was feeling like they were getting their period. While it’s been quite awhile since you’ve experienced PMS, if you start to feel that telltale low backache or period cramps, or whatever else used to indicate your period was on it’s way pre-pregnancy, it may be indicating early labour, too.

2. Signs of Labour: Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion, Upset Stomach… and yes, Diarrhea

Your body is smart (you’re growing a WHOLE HUMAN BEING)! In the days leading up to labour, you may experience what we call “the cleanse”, and we don’t mean wheatgrass juice. Since getting your baby out is such a tight squeeze, your super-smart body may spend some time getting everything else in your stomach, intestine, and bowels out of the way to allow your baby as much room as possible. You can help it along by staying very hydrated, maintaining good nutrition, and probably staying close to the bathroom.

3. Signs of Labour: Mucous Plug and Bloody Show

To help keep your cervix closed and infection out, your body created a “plug” of mucous in your cervix to help keep your baby safe. As your cervix begins to soften, dilate, and efface, this plug may be dislodged and come out. An increase in discharge is normal at the end of pregnancy, but this is different, and you’ll know if it happens for you by the size and texture of the plug (to get graphic, it kind of looks like you blew your nose in your underwear). It may be clear, mucous-colored, or blood tinged- all are normal. As your cervix changes, you may notice some blood, but if you’re bleeding a lot (more than a pad in an hour) or are feeling concerned, definitely get in touch with your doctor or midwife.

4. Signs of Labour: Increased Braxton Hicks contractions

Your Braxton Hicks contractions- which are generally painless tightenings thought of as “practice contractions”- might increase in the days and weeks before your labour begins. Make sure you’re hydrated (Braxton Hicks can also be caused by dehydration), and try to ignore them as best you can. If you can’t, try changing your activity (rest if you’ve been active or get active if you’ve been resting) to see if it helps slow them down.

5. Signs of Labour: A “Feeling”

Sure, this one might sound a little vague. And you probably won’t see this on many other lists when you’re Googling “Am I in labour?”. However, after many years and hundreds of births, we know that it’s real. Some, but not all, pregnant people notice a shift in their mood in the days leading up to labour. You may feel more quiet, focused on yourself, and instinctual. You may notice an extreme and all-consuming need to nest and ready your home (though we promise, your baby doesn’t care if you’ve deep-cleaned and reorganized your Tupperware cupboard). You might even feel a burst of energy! If you’ve felt a shift, you may be closer to giving birth than you realize.

Remember, not every birth starts the same way. Some people will experience all of these symptoms, others just one or two, and some won’t notice any at all. When in doubt, call your doula. You’ve got this!