Bodily Changes before Labor Begins

By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you may recognize certain changes as your body prepares for the big event. You may notice all these symptoms, or you may not notice any of them. Sometimes the changes begin weeks before labor starts, and sometimes they begin only days before:

  • Bloody show: No, the bloody show isn’t the newest horror flick by Wes Craven. As changes in your cervix take place, you may expel some mucous discharge mixed with blood from your vagina. The blood comes from small, broken capillaries in your cervix.

  • Diarrhea: Usually a few days before labor, your body releases prostaglandins, which are substances that help the uterus contract and may cause diarrhea.

  • Dropping and engagement: Especially in women who are giving birth for the first time, the fetus often drops into the pelvis several weeks before labor. You may feel increased pressure on your vagina and sharp pains radiating to your vagina. You also may notice that your whole uterus is lower in your belly and that you’re suddenly more comfortable and can breathe more easily.

  • Increase in Braxton-Hicks contractions: You may notice an increase in the frequency and strength of Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions may become somewhat uncomfortable, even if they don’t grow any stronger or more frequent. Some women experience strong Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks before labor begins.

  • Mucous discharge: You may secrete a thick mucous discharge known as the mucous plug. During your pregnancy, this substance plugs your cervix, protecting your uterus from infection. As your cervix starts to thin out (efface) and dilate in preparation for delivery, the plug may wash out. Don’t worry; losing your plug doesn’t mean you’re prone to infection.