Early signs of labour

Iron and towelsIf you feel as if you've been pregnant for ever and keep wondering, 'is this it?', then read on to find out if what you're experiencing are the early signs of labour.

We've combed Mumsnet Talk to see what the most common signs of labour seem to be. Like childbirth proper, the early signs involve varying degrees of pain, expulsion of bodily fluids and strong emotions.

Unlike childbirth proper, the early signs can involve deciding to repaint your skirting boards and iron your towels.

Upset stomach

  • Tummy upsets can be an early sign, or can cause labour to start. Alicetheinvisible
  • Woke up at 1am with what felt like constipation. Endless labour after that with contractions never further than five mins apart from start to finish. Nwgreenmum
  • I had to rush to the loo at about 7pm and emptied my bowels very dramatically! Bonsoir
  • Thought I was constipated and sat on the loo for ages trying to poo. Suddenly realised it was the baby's head! BigusBumus


  • Terrible, terrible backache! I was woken at 4.30am with stabbing pains in my lower back, it took a little while at first to work out what it was. I didn't realise - and nobody told me - you could get labour pains in your back. Mrsfrenzy
  • I had a dull backache for a day or two (which I really didn't even associate with labour since it was well over a week until my due date) before the ever-delightful 'show' appeared one morning in the shower. Halbanoo


  • I felt like I was getting my period and was just really uncomfortable. Was three weeks early, so took a few hours to twig what was going on. I packed my hospital bag as the contractions started to kick in. MrsKwazii
  • Irregular, stabby contractions – didn't actually feel any tightening but just on-off stabby pains in my hips. With my first child these lasted about two hours, with my fourth it started the day before, stopped, then started again in the early hours of the morning, I got up, went to the toilet and my waters broke. PoweredbyPepsi

A show

  • Two days of period style pains and a bit of pinky mucus. DitaVonTeese
  • Had a show - a sort of small, slimy bit of discharge vaguely brown/red/creamish. Wigeon

Your waters breaking

  • First sign for me was 50 million gallons of water pouring out from me and ruining the mattress. Zerominuszero
  • I was sitting on the sofa eating rice and watching Kill Bill, no labour signs, no niggles, nothing, when whoooooooosh. Contractions started within seconds. ShowOfHands

Nesting instinct

  • I had a desperate urge to tidy the house. I scrubbed and washed up and dusted, while thinking "these Braxton Hicks contractions are getting really strong..." greenbananas
  • An irresistible urge to iron all the table napkins we own. Never done it before or since. Newbroom
  • I thought I could get in behind my fridge to clean the floor the day before my son came. nomorelego
  • I march around issuing orders "that skirting board has to be painted NOW! How can I bring a baby into this house?!" I also iron duvet covers. thefirstMrsdeVere

Mood swings

  • I felt really irritable and strange. I had been having period-like type pains for a few days and when I saw the midwife in the morning I was really teary eyed and I think she knew, too, that I would be in labour later that day. Ivortheengine8
  • I am always spectacularly pissed off when I am in early labour, so the fact you are really grumpy is a good sign. MrsdeVere

Burst of energy

  • I woke up at 2am and felt really energetic and loose jointed, I was sitting on the stairs stretching open my hips without really knowing what I was doing. Also, adrenaline, and lots of excitement. Deliakate
  • I felt eerily great the day before - did a big food shop and remember noticing my pelvis wasn't aching like it had been for months and I didn't feel tired. castille
  • I leapt up and took the dog for a walk. I had so much energy the dog couldn't keep up with me! I could've run the whole way. Two hours later little man was born. Startingagainafter14years

Others' reactions

  • The cat miaowing at me like crazy, literally following me around the house and garden. Waters popped about half hour after that. Rococopops
  • My DH confidently exclaimed,"That's it, you've got your serious labour face now." It really cheered me up and made me laugh that someone else could read my face so well. He was right, our son arrived about four hours later. Perspective21

We hope this helps you to decide if your baby is about to make his or her debut. But if you're in any doubt about the signs of labour, do consult your antenatal team or GP. No-one will care if it turns out to be a false alarm (except you, obviously).


Last updated: about 1 year ago