Birth

Here are some signs your baby is coming before their due date
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9 Signs Your Baby Is Coming Early, So Get Ready

Start packing your hospital bag.

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Some expectant parents have a gut instinct their baby will arrive early. Even though first-time mothers often breeze past their due date before going into labor, that’s by no means a guarantee — it’s still totally possible that your baby could make their appearance a few days or weeks in advance. Having a gut feeling may not count as one of the legitimate signs your baby is coming early, but there are some more scientific clues that can provide a fuller picture.

Symptoms of early labor can be challenging to identify, especially during a first pregnancy. “Preterm contractions can be hard to detect, since for many people they seem like a common pregnancy backache or mild cramping that seems harmless,” obstetric nurse Juliana Parker, RN, tells Romper.

For veteran moms, the most obvious sign (and biggest risk factor) that baby might come early is a previous preterm delivery. After delivering my first son two weeks earlier than expected, I made sure to be prepared for the unexpected when I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. This meant my hospital bag was packed and ready to go in the first trimester, which worked out great since my second baby arrived three weeks early.

Whether or not you have a sneaking suspicion that your little one will make their way into the world before the calendar predicts, see if you are experiencing any of these seven signs baby is coming before their due date, so you can get ready as well.

1

You have stomach troubles

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Got a rumble in your belly? It could mean more than the backlash from the feisty burrito you ate last night. “During early labor, your cervix and uterus begin physiologic changes of labor stimulated by prostaglandins,” board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins, M.D., tells Romper. “Prostaglandins, such as oxytocin, are responsible for stimulating contractions in the uterus, which then causes the cervix to dilate and open. The prostaglandins also uniquely cause the bowels to rapidly move food along the digestive tract, causing diarrhea. The underlying benefit of this prostaglandin effect is that it clears the pelvic space for the baby to pass through with more ease.” She adds that this kind of diarrhea will go away after you deliver the baby.

If this happens, make sure to drink lots of fluids to boost hydration. “Dehydration is a common cause of preterm contractions, so I always advise people to stay hydrated during their pregnancy,” Parker suggests.

2

You feel less pressure in your abdominals

A feeling that pregnant people describe as "lightening" is due to the lightened pressure in the abdomen once the baby drops into position for delivery. “As your pregnancy comes close to full term (37 weeks and up), the baby may start to descend into the pelvis in preparation for birth,” explains Perkins. “When this happens, the fundal height, a measurement of your fundus which reflects the number of weeks gestation, will start to decrease. As this happens, some people may feel less pressure in the abdomen and more pressure in the pelvis where the baby is now occupying. This is a normal finding.”

Parker explains that when your baby lowers into this position, you may start to feel the pressure move to your pelvic area. If this happens a few weeks before your due date, it's a strong sign your baby is coming early.

3

Your back aches

Aches and pains are part of the deal during pregnancy, but certain discomforts during your third trimester could mean your baby will be arriving ahead of schedule. Parker explains that if you’re having lower back pain (a sign that your baby might be rotating into the right direction) more than four to six times an hour, you should ring your doctor (and pack your hospital bag).

4

Your cervix is dilated

Active labor starts once the cervix is dilated to six centimeters. Making it to 10 centimeters takes some time, but you could be a few centimeters earlier than expected. If your cervix starts to open before you hit 37 weeks, you might have a preterm baby. “The diagnosis [of preterm labor] isn't made unless you are found to have a dilating cervix along with the regular painful contractions,” Dr. Brittany Noel Robles, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist, tells Romper.

5

Your contractions are stubborn

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It's common to feel contractions throughout the course of your pregnancy, but when they come on stronger and don't go away, it's time to pay attention. “The most obvious symptom of preterm labor is the presence of regular contractions. They may or may not be painful,” Robles explains. This is one early sign of labor that could signal others are to follow and your little one is on their way.

6

You lost your mucus plus and have cramping

Discharge comes with the territory during pregnancy. Because of all the hormones involved, pregnant people can expect discharge to vary from a small amount to thick blobs throughout their pregnancy. What’s commonly called the mucus plug, however, is actually an accumulation of thick mucus in the cervix and lower uterus. Losing it without any other symptoms is not a good indicator that labor is starting, says Parker, especially considering that it’s possible to lose it multiple times. However, “if you are preterm, have cramping, and also notice bloody, brownish discharge, it could be a sign that labor is starting,” she says.

7

You have an infection

There is a link between infection, including bacterial vaginosis, and preterm labor. “One of the most common reasons for preterm labor is an infection,” says Robles. “This can be any type of infection, such as the flu, an untreated UTI which can become a severe kidney infection, listeria from eating certain foods, or a uterine infection, which can present with premature rupture of membranes.” If you receive any of these diagnoses, make sure you’re prepared for your baby to come at any minute, and talk to your OB/GYN to make sure you’re able to deliver safely.

8

You have loose joints

“As your body prepares for labor, a hormone called relaxin is released,” Perkins tells Romper. “This hormone helps your joints relax and create space for your baby to pass through your pelvis.” You may notice that your joints and ligaments feel looser or more relaxed as you near your due date. If so, it could be a sign your baby is coming sooner than expected.

9

You start nesting

Perkins tells Romper that before your baby comes, it’s common to start doing something called “nesting”. Nesting is “the sudden energy and enthusiasm that cause you to prepare for your baby coming into the world,” she says. “You may start cleaning, organizing, or rearranging things as you have a strong desire to prepare. This happens because of a psychological somewhat programmed human behavior to control your baby's environment and to protect your unborn child.” If you’re getting an uncharacteristic urge to clean and prep, it could be a signal from deep within that you’re having your baby soon.

Any of these signs could mean your baby is just too excited to meet you to wait for their due date. So get ready to “nest” away, because here comes the little one.

Experts:

Juliana Parker, RN, registered nurse at Accel OB Partners in Care

Brittany Noel Robles, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist and certified personal trainer specializing in postpartum

Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins, MD, board-certified OB/GYN

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