10 Signs That Labor Is 24 to 48 Hours Away

Published April 1st, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

If you are pregnant, you may be wondering what signs to look for to determine when labor is imminent.

Many pregnant women will go into labor within 24 to 48 hours after they experience certain signs and symptoms.

In this article, we will discuss 10 of the most common signs that labor is soon to begin.

Keep in mind that every woman's body is different, so not all of these signs will occur in every woman.

However, there are certain signs that we will detail below that make it more likely you will be going into labor the next day or two.

What are some signs that I may give birth in 24 to 48 hours?

As your due date approaches, you may be eagerly awaiting the signs that labor is imminent.

There are some signs that you may start labor in the next 24 to 48 hours.

These signs include:

Water breaking

Your water breaking is the most obvious sign that labor is starting. If your water breaks and you have a regular contraction pattern, then you are in labor.

The water is contained in your amniotic sac that breaks and releases the amniotic fluid.

The amniotic sac is filled with fetal cells, mucus, hormones and normally erupts due to the pressure from your baby's head pushing on it.

You may experience a gush of water, which is actually a fluid, or it may be a trickle of fluid. If you are leaking fluid and do not have any contractions, call your doctor to find out if you need to be induced.

If your water does not break on its own, your doctor may rupture the membranes artificially.

An artificial water breaking is done by inserting a small plastic tube through the cervix into the amniotic sac and then inflating it with fluid.

The pressure of this fluid will cause the membranes to rupture.

Contractions

You may start having regular contractions as a sign of labor. These contractions will become progressively more intense and closer together.

If the timing of labor contractions is less than five minutes apart and lasts for a minute or more, then you are in labor.

Real contractions are not to be confused with Braxton Hicks contractions, which are false contractions that may signal false labor and can occur throughout pregnancy but are typically not as intense as real labor contractions.

Weight loss

A loss of one to three pounds of weight can occur a day or two before going into labor.

The weight is mostly water weight due to your baby dropping, which means your baby's head is moving into a lower position for labor.

Your baby's head can put added pelvic pressure and pressure on your bladder causing you to urinate more frequently and lose water weight.

Loss of mucus plug

The mucus plug is a thick clump of mucus that blocks the cervix and seals the uterus during pregnancy.

A few days before labor begins, the mucus plug may come out which can appear as a clear or blood-tinged discharge after you urinate or wipe.

Do not worry if your mucus plug is a pink mixture of blood as it is completely normal and is another labor sign called the "bloody show."

Losing the mucus plug may occur even up to a couple of weeks prior to labor but it is another sign that labor is imminent.

Cervical dilation

Your cervix will start to dilate, or open, in preparation for your baby to come out of the birth canal.

The dilation process is typically slow and gradual but can speed up as labor progresses.

Your doctor can perform a measurement of your cervix during pregnancy and will be able to measure the dilation during the cervical check.

For delivery, your cervix needs to dilate 10 centimeters but if it is only two to three centimeters dilated then you may be 24 to 48 hours away from giving birth which is a sign of the first stage of labor.

Nesting

The nesting instinct is a strong urge to clean and prepare for the baby and can occur in the days, hours, or even the last trimester before labor.

You may feel an overwhelming desire to get your house ready for the baby or scrub the floors. Some women even start packing their hospital bags at this time.

Lower back pain

One of the most common signs of labor is lower back pain which may be a dull ache or a more intense pain.

The pain may radiate to your buttocks, pelvis, and down your legs.

There may be joint pain throughout pregnancy in preparation for labor but the lower back pain you can get right before labor is more intense and may not go away until after labor.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be a warning sign of impending labor.

The loose stool is caused by the prostaglandins that are released in preparation for dilating your cervix for labor and cause the intestines to empty.

An empty stomach is a good sign as it makes more room for the baby and can mean less of a chance of bowel movements during delivery.

Loose joints

Pregnancy can cause the ligaments that support your joints to loosen in preparation for labor by releasing the hormone relaxin.

You feel more flexible than usual, especially in your pelvis or lower back, or you may feel like your joints are popping and cracking.

Unfortunately, there is a side effect to relaxin in that it may also cause diarrhea as it relaxes all of your muscles, including your rectum.

Cramps

Similar to menstrual cramps, you may start having cramps in your abdomen and pelvis 24 to 48 hours before labor begins.

These cramps are caused by uterine contractions which will become more frequent and intense as labor progresses and can come and go.

Be aware that these are not the same as Braxton Hicks contractions as they are usually painless and a false alarm, while these cramps have at least some mild pain and can indicate you are in actual labor.

What do I do if labor begins?

If you are at home when labor begins, try to time the contractions and then call your doctor.

If the contractions are more than five minutes apart, they are probably not true labor contractions and you can wait to see if they get closer together or go away.

If the contractions are less than five minutes apart and last for over a minute these are actual labor contractions and you need to call your doctor and go to the hospital for labor.

Summary

There are many signs that labor may start in the next 24 to 48 hours including loss of mucus plug, cervical dilation, water breaking, lower back pain, diarrhea, and real contractions among others.

If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is best to contact your doctor and head to the hospital just in case.

If you are able to time your contractions and they are under five minutes and last over a minute, go to the hospital immediately as you are in active labor. If you have any more questions, please talk to your doctor or prenatal provider.

References and Sources:

Cleveland Clinic

American Pregnancy Association

Kaiser Permanente

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