Pregnant woman with hands on belly, in a story about the signs baby is coming before due date.
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9 Signs Your Baby Is Coming Early, So Get Ready

Is your hospital bag packed yet?

by Autumn Jones and Katie McPherson
Originally Published: 

Maybe you’re experiencing the signs of labor a little earlier than you expected. Maybe you just have a nagging feeling — call it a mother’s intuition — that your baby is going to be born before your due date. You can look for telltale signs baby is coming before your due date; you’ll just need to know what you’re looking for ahead of time. With all the daily aches and pains pregnancy can cause, especially towards the end of your nine months, it’s easy to mistake a preterm contraction for just another lower back ache.

For veteran moms, the most obvious of all signs baby will come early is a previous preterm delivery. While it doesn’t guarantee every baby you have will be born before their due date, it’s a risk factor your doctor will want to know about. Chances are you’ll already have your hospital bag packed by the door well in advance, and have a pretty good idea about the signs of early labor having gone through it once before.

But if you’re a first-time parent, you’ll have to learn how to tell if baby will come early or late, or in some rare cases, actually right on time. 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 signs baby is coming before their due date, so you can get ready as well.


You have diarrhea.


Got a rumble in your belly? It could be more than the backlash from the burrito you ate last night — it might be one of your first signs baby will come early. “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,” obstetric nurse Juliana Parker, RN, tells Romper.


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,” says Perkins. “When this happens, the fundal height, a measurement of your uterine 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.”

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


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 maybe pack your hospital bag.


Your cervix is dilated.

Active labor starts once the cervix is dilated to six centimeters. Your doctor checking how dilated you are can help them tell if baby will come early or late. 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.


Your contractions are stubborn.


If you feel any sort of cramping or back pain as your due date nears, pay attention: “Preterm contractions can be hard to detect, since for many people they seem like a common pregnancy backache or mild cramping that seems harmless,” says Parker.

It’s common to feel contractions throughout the course of your pregnancy, but when they come on stronger and don't go away, they could be one of the signs baby is coming before the due date. “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.


You lost your mucus plus and have cramping.

Discharge comes with the territory during pregnancy, and 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.


You have an infection.

There is a link between infections, 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.


You have loose joints.

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. “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 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.”

So, 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.

If you’re wondering how to tell if your baby will come early (or late, because you’re not having any of these signs), these bodily changes can tip you off. If you have questions or concerns about possible signs baby will come early, call your doctor or midwife to get some peace of mind.


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, M.D., board-certified OB/GYN

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