7 Signs Your Baby Is Coming Early
About six months into my pregnancy with my first child, I just knew he was going to be born before his due date (which happened to be Halloween). When I would share my prediction with other mothers, they would toss their head back and laugh, claiming first-time mothers rarely go into labor early. They said I should expect to go past my due date and deal with it. I know that having a gut feeling doesn't count as one of the legitimate signs your baby is coming early, but there must be something to it since my baby was, in fact, born two weeks earlier than expected.
Looking back, I experienced more than one symptom of early labor, but at the time I didn't know there was a connection. Obstetric nurse Juliana Parker, RN, tells Romper it’s common for women to miss signs of early labor. “Preterm contractions can be hard to detect since for many people they seem like a common pregnancy backache or mild cramping that seems harmless,” she says.
Dr. Brittany Noel Robles, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist, tells Romper that 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 boy 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 his way into the world before the calendar predicts, see if you are experiencing any of these seven signs your baby is on the way, so you can have your bag packed and ready as well.
1. You Have Tummy Troubles
Got a rumble in your belly? It could mean more than the backlash from the feisty burrito you ate last night. Per Healthline, diarrhea close to your due date could be a sign that your baby is coming soon and labor may start. 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,” says Parker.
2. You Feel Less Pressure In Your Abdominals
A feeling pregnant women describe as "lightening" is due to the lightened pressure in the abdomen once the baby drops into position for delivery. 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.
3. Your Back Aches
Aches and pains are part of the deal during pregnancy, but certain discomforts during your last trimester could mean your baby will be arriving ahead of schedule. Parker explains that if you’re having lower backaches (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 6 centimeters. Making it to 10 centimeters takes some time, but chances are, you may be a few centimeters earlier than expected. If your cervix starts to open before you hit 37 weeks, you could 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,” explains Robles.
5. Your Contractions Are Stubborn
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 her way.
6. You Lost Your Mucus Plug
Discharge comes with the territory during pregnancy. Because of all the hormones involved, pregnant women 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.
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
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