Baby on the way: spot the early signs of labour*

Baby on the way: spot the early signs of labour*

on Jun 10, 2024

As the much-awaited moment of childbirth approaches, it's completely normal to feel uncertain or nervous about your labour and delivery. Let’s calm those nerves! From recognizing the early signs that labour has begun, to knowing when it's time to contact your doctor, we’re here to help you navigate the journey of childbirth.  

 Oh Baby! 10 early signs that labour is underway 

  1. Nesting: This often is considered an “old wives’ tale,” but if you have a burst of energy, or the urge to clean and organize, this could be a sign that your baby is on the way. 
  2. Braxton-Hicks: These ‘false’ contractions can start halfway through the pregnancy, but they tend to increase in frequency and intensity as you get closer to delivery. 
  3. Dropping or Lightening: This phenomenon is commonly referred to as "lightening" because you might physically feel lighter. As baby drops down further into your pelvis to prepare for birth, you might find it easier to breathe now that baby is no longer putting heavy pressure on your diaphragm. 
  4. Effacement: In the last month of pregnancy, the cervix will begin to stretch and thin. This is an indication that the lower portion of the uterus is preparing for delivery, as a thinner cervix dilates more easily. ¹
  5. Dilation: This is the process of the cervix opening in preparation for childbirth. ¹ Your healthcare provider can help you determine how many centimeters you have dilated as you approach your delivery date.
  6. Water Works: If your water breaks or you experience a heavy gush or light leak of fluid, it's essential to inform your doctor. This could be a sign that labour is underway. ¹
  7. Bloody Show: During pregnancy, a mucus plug protects your cervix. As your body gears up for labour, it says goodbye to this plug, and that is called a “show.” ² The mucus might have a hint of pink or blood. It's a sign that labour might be near, but don't worry if you don't notice it – not everyone does!
  8. Backache: Nagging aches or mild pains in your lower back could be from increased pressure to your pelvic area. ³ This also could be a signal that baby is ready. 
  9. You Gotta Go: Increased urination, loose stools, diarrhea and/or feeling like you need to go to the bathroom more often (even more so than before) is a common early sign of labour.
  10. Regular Contractions: When your contractions increase in intensity and frequency, this is the telltale sign that your baby is ready to join the world. Start recording the time each contraction begins and how long they last. Contact your doctor or midwife when your contractions follow a consistent pattern and are occurring closer together. ²

As your due date approaches, look for these subtle signals that the big day is near. From nesting instincts kicking in to unusual bursts of energy, these signs can be both exciting and reassuring. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions about the signs that labour is starting. 

* For informational purposes only. Not intended to be medical advice. Consult your physician for any questions about your or your baby's health. 



¹ Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Labour 101. Accessed 2024 March. URL: 

² American Pregnancy Association. Signs of Labor. Accessed 2024 February. URL: 

³ HealthLinkBC. Labour and Delivery. Accessed 2024 April.    

Government of Canada. Your guide to a healthy pregnancy. Accessed 2024 February. URL: