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Symptoms Before Labor Begins: What to Look Out For

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 28, 2021

Symptoms Before Labor Begins: What to Look Out For

Being aware of the symptoms before labor begins can help expectant mothers get ready for giving birth. While there’s really no way to be fully prepared when it comes to giving birth, having an idea of what to expect helps you handle it better.

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What is labor?

Prior to discussing the symptoms before labor, we need to understand first what labor is exactly. Labor is the process where the fetus and the placenta start to leave the woman’s uterus. This means the entire period when strong and frequent uterine contractions occur until the delivery process.

For pregnant women, knowing the symptoms before labor begins is very important. This is because it allows them to know when they should be going to the hospital. Doctors also need to know when a woman’s labor starts, as well as how long a woman  has been in labor. This is because prolonged duration of labor may mean that a cesarean section might be needed as vaginal birth may not be feasible.

Symptoms before labor begins:

When a woman is about to go into labor, a number of things start to happen. These are commonly known as the symptoms before labor begins.

Here are some of the symptoms, and why they occur:


Contractions, characterized as mild to moderate and infrequent, are one of the most commonly associated symptoms before labor begins.

This is called Braxton Hicks contractions or “false labor’ which are irregular contractions that usually happen before actual labor starts.

Essentially, contractions are your body’s way of “pushing out’ your baby.  When you’re about to give birth, you’ll start to experience stronger, and more frequent regular contractions. Depending on how long you are in labor, the contractions can start to feel very painful. Some women have even likened it to severe dysmenorrhea, though this is not always the case with all women.

Frequent urination

Another symptom before labor begins is frequent urination or sensation to urinate. This happens because as the fetus starts to go down, it starts to press against your bladder. This means that even if you’ve just urinated, or you haven’t drank anything recently, you might have an urge to pee.

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3. Backache

One of the symptoms before labor begins is low backache. Compared to the usual backache you feel during pregnancy, this doesn’t go away if you lie down or change positions.

Some women experience back pain even before labor because of the baby’s movements. As the fetus moves into position, the head can push against your back. This added pressure is responsible for back pain that women usually experience during labor.

In some cases, a gentle massage can help relieve an aching back. If you have a bathtub, soaking in it may help ease both your back pain, as well as lessen the pain from the mild contractions.

4. Water breaking

Of all the symptoms before labor begins, water breaking is probably the most ominous one. This is called prelabor rupture of membrane. The water breaking means that the amniotic sac which protects the baby has ruptured. Women can experience this as a feeling of watery discharge coming from their vagina, though it can also be a larger gush of liquid not associated with peeing. This can signal that labor may start soon. When your water breaks, it would be best to go to the hospital as soon as possible. This way, hospital staff can monitor the progress of your labor, and they can get ready for when the baby will come out.

If labor has not started even if  the water bag is already leaking or ruptured, then induction of labor may be started. This will warrant close monitoring as prolonged rupture of membrane may predispose the woman and baby to ascending infection. .

Key Takeaways

Being aware of the symptoms before labor helps pregnant women get ready for giving birth both mentally and physically. Though, if you feel anything wrong or out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Learn more about Giving Birth here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 28, 2021

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