Early Sign of Labour or just a Symptom of Late Pregnancy?

As probably most mothers would agree, the first trimester of pregnancy is pretty rough.  Morning sickness, extreme fatigue and sore breasts.  The second trimester is probably the best, where many women have glowing skin, the morning sickness finally begins to subside and everyone is excited for you to be growing a beautiful bundle of joy.  The third trimester, and especially the last few weeks however, are far from wonderful.  Increased risk of urinary tract infections (beautiful, eh), heartburn and shortness of breath are just a handful of the delightful symptoms…  In this post, I wanted to share those symptoms that have you asking “Am I in labour?!”, and discuss the differences between symptoms experienced during early stages of labour and the third trimester stage of the pregnancy.

Waters Breaking

Probably the symptom used in staged labours such as Eastenders and Corrie, etc, is the sudden breaking of waters with no other symptoms.  Whilst this does happen, it doesn’t happen often!  In my first labour, I had to have my waters broken as I’d reached 9cm dilation and they still hadn’t gone…  My second labour was induced, so I again had them broken for me, although I’m told by others that when they do ‘go’ they hear an audible pop before the gush!

Although, some mums experience the breaking of waters without a ‘pop’ and gush, but rather a trickle.  In late pregnancy, there are instances where you think “OMG – is that my waters?!” and you ring the midwife who tells you to wear a sanitary pad and come into the unit to be checked.  Then you’re a bit embarrassed to find out that you’d maybe just coughed a bit too hard and a little bit of pee came out.  To save these embarrassing moments and precious NHS time, a new product called Amniosense has hit the market – a panty-liner that detects amniotic fluid with as little as two drops.  I certainly experienced a couple of embarrassing moments during my pregnancies and to think that these liners would’ve prevented those…


Backache is a fairly standard symptom of pregnancy and I don’t know one woman that hasn’t experienced backache in the third trimester of pregnancy.  I suppose it’s to be expected with a baby, placenta and waters to carry around, as your tummy gets gradually bigger over a 40(ish) week period!  Warm baths, antenatal massage and a TENS machine are all really helpful ways to manage with general backache.

Saying that, intense or unusual backache can also be a sign of early labour – particularly if your baby is lying back-to-back.  Again, a TENS machine, massage and a warm bath (not all at the same time, I hasten to add!) can help to relieve the aches you may be experiencing.

Upset Stomach

A not-very-pleasant symptom that some experience during late pregnancy is an upset stomach.  Maybe the nausea returns, maybe you can’t keep off the loo – it’s not very nice either way.  However, if these things aren’t something you usually have in the latter part of pregnancy, it could be a way of your body trying to empty out the ‘stodge’ (yum) before labour.

Ways to avoid these symptoms are essentially keeping well-hydrated and making sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet, full of fruit and vegetables.


Contractions, or ‘surges’ as they’re often referred to, are described as tightenings which some (including me) find to be painful.  In early labour, they can feel similar to strong period pains and they occur infrequently at first.  When you’re having regular and painful contractions, lasting around 30 seconds each, you can more or less safely say you’re in labour.

However, many women experience Braxton Hicks in the latter stages of pregnancy.  These differ from the contractions felt during labour in that they are painless, albeit a little uncomfortable, and they really aren’t trying to push your baby out.  They happen infrequently, maybe one or two every few hours, and don’t increase in intensity.  Health professionals can’t seem to pinpoint the exact reason for Braxton Hicks contractions, though some think it’s the method the body uses to prepare the muscle fibres and cervix ahead of labour.  Braxton Hicks contractions can often be calmed by relaxing in a warm bath or taking a short walk outdoors.

Did you experience any of these symptoms before you were in labour?

*This is a collaborative post

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