Important Signs of Labor | Hale Clinics

Important Signs of Labor | Hale Clinics

Alright, expecting mamas – let’s discuss the topic that likely causes your heart rate to instantly double while generating a tidal wave of nervous butterflies: labor pain. It’s undoubtedly the most daunting yet transformative experience of your entire life. But rather than starting panicking, it’s high time to understand what to expect when you’re expecting. In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about labor, covering topics like what are the signs of labor, when the labor actually starts, and in what situations it requires emergency medical attention.

What Is Labor?

Let’s start at the very beginning. So, labor represents the relentless biological process by which your body works diligently to expel and deliver that tiny baby taking up residence in your womb.

While movies and TV serials love to humorously depict labor as a frantic rush to the hospital amid a dramatic dam-bursting flood, the real deal tends to build gradually through carefully choreographed biological phases:

  • Early Labor: This initial phase can start weeks before delivery day and involves the thinning and dilation of your cervix (aka being “effaced” or slowly stretched open). Things start to get in position through unbalanced and irregular contractions that may feel like intense menstrual cramps.
  • Active Labor: As your cervix opens up to at least 6 centimeters dilated, this kicks off the real start of active labor marked by increasingly intense, regular contractions growing steadily closer together in frequency and lasting longer in duration.  
  • Transition: Here’s where things get complicated, ladies. When you hit 8 centimeters dilated through to 10 full centimeters, the most intense and wildly painful contractions descend as your body prepares for pushing. Many describe “transition” as an excruciating endurance challenge as it’s the point of no return before birth!
  • Delivery: Congrats, you’re fully dilated and hopefully entering your birthing suite by now! It’s prime-time pushing as each contraction provides a window to propel that baby down and out through the birth canal with guidance from midwives and nurses.

Now, some lucky woman might pass the first few stages of labor while barely noticing much more than a few bothersome cramps here and there. But for most of us mere mortals, the journey involves gradually intensifying bouts of sheer physical torment and transcendent mind-over-matter fortitude as labor gains momentum.

When Does Labor Start?

While every pregnancy proves unique, there’s no precise science for predicting just when labor will officially start. Sure, your due date provides a rough guess time for a baby’s anticipated emergence, but only around 5% of births happen right on that date. For the rest, spontaneous labor usually kicks into gear any time between two weeks before to two weeks after their estimated due date range.

Early Signs of Labor Is Near (But Hasn’t Started Yet)

A few biological signals like the following can certainly hint that labor is nearing and the real thing is about to start soon:

  • Feeling a dull backache or persistent stomach cramping
  • Noticing regular bouts of contractions gradually ramping up in intensity  
  • Light bleeding or mucus discharge tinged with streaks of blood 
  • Having your water break (which only happens for 1 in 5 women before real contractions start)
  • Diarrhoea or nausea in the few hours leading up as things progress

For some poor souls, those warm-up acts play on for days before the actual main labor event. For others, the biological signs accelerate so rapidly that you’ll need an extra level of endurance to make it inside hospital doors in time for a dry delivery. Since there’s virtually no reliable way to pinpoint labor’s start, keeping your hospital bag packed and plans mapped out ahead of time is essential.

Signs of Labor

Signs of Labor

As those bodily cues start growing in intensity during the early labor phase, you’ll likely experience some inconsistent, moderate cramping kind of resembling super awkward period cramps radiating through your lower abdomen and back. These practice contractions, dubbed “Braxton Hicks,” can certainly feel legit uncomfortable but tend to be unpredictable tightening spasms without any progressive pattern or escalating pain.

In contrast, the genuine active labor contractions will exhibit some notable patterns that let you know it’s finally showtime, like:

  • Increasing in strength over time instead of fizzling out
  • Occurring at more consistent intervals that slowly close together
  • Becoming longer in duration as hours pass, around 30-90 seconds 
  • Radiating pain into your lower back and upper thighs in waves
  • Potentially triggering other signs like diarrhoea, vomiting, or water-breaking

The key differentiator is that active labor contractions build in a steady, measurable rhythm – around every 3-5 minutes apart for over an hour or so as dilation progresses. To know more about the signs of labor, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Anshu Syed, who is one of the Best Gynaecologist in Mohali.

What is Preterm Labor?

As much as we’d all love to keep our babies perfectly inside for the full gestation cycle, sometimes that stubborn uterus decides to start prematurely contracting toward an early eviction notice. Any regular contractions beginning before the 37th week point represent preterm labor – and require an emergency response befitting its high-risk designation.  

Because premature babies often lack full development across major organs, early labor can threaten all sorts of harrowing complications unless rapidly halted through medicine, hydration, and tons of attentive hospital monitoring. In rare severe cases, preterm birth becomes inevitable which requires immediate intensive care to survive.

So, if you ever start feeling persistent, escalating contractions with upwards of 8 weeks left on your term, that merits an immediate doctor consultation rather than a wait-and-see approach. Your body’s natural attempt at evicting the baby too soon is nothing to gamble with!


So, while knowing signs of labor is good, you should also be prepared for anything unexpected. Because at the end of the day, bringing new human life into the world is nothing short of a magical show – one full of unexpected turns, indescribable pain yet unparalleled joy. The lows make the eventual highs that much sweeter.

All that really matters is cultivating a solid support system, advocating for your ideal birth experience, and maintaining perseverance to muscle through each new chaotic contraction. Only then will you earn entry into that sacred inner circle of moms who already know the ultimate badge of honour worth every second of pain: finally getting to cradle their wildly loved newborn in their arms.


Q1. What is labor?

Ans. Labor is the biological process by which a woman’s body works to expel and deliver the baby from the womb. It typically progresses through phases like early labor, active labor, transition, and delivery.

Q2. When does labor usually start?

Ans. While every pregnancy is unique, labor typically starts anytime between two weeks before to two weeks after the estimated due date. 

Q3. What are the early signs that labor is near but hasn’t started yet?

Ans. Early signs include dull backache, persistent cramping, light bleeding/mucus discharge, water breaking, diarrhea, and nausea in the hours leading up to labor.

Q4. How can you differentiate between true labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions?

Ans. True labor contractions increase in strength over time, occur at consistent intervals that get closer, last longer (30-90 seconds), and radiate pain into the back and thighs. Braxton Hicks are irregular and unpredictable.

Q5. What is preterm labor and why is it considered an emergency?

Ans. Preterm labor is regular contractions beginning before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It’s an emergency as premature birth can threaten the underdeveloped baby’s health and survival.

Q6. What are the signs that active labor has started?

Ans. Signs of active labor include contractions occurring every 3-5 minutes for over an hour, increasing in intensity, lasting longer, radiating back/thigh pain, and potentially accompanied by water breaking, diarrhea or vomiting.