What does the start of labour feel like?
Early labour signs differ from woman to woman and it can be difficult to determine if it’s actually labour or if you’re experiencing braxton hicks. There’s a wealth of information on the signs of first stage labour on the internet and we know you’ve probably been reading everything there is to know. Our team of medical professionals suggest contacting your birth team if you think you may be going into first stage labour. For your own peace of mind though, we asked our massive community of “mums who have been there” what their experiences with what the start of labour feels like. Here we ask our community to share their experiences to help you know if birth is about to happen! EEK!
Early labour signs can include:
- period like cramps
- waters breaking
What is happening to your body during early labour?
Early labour is when the cervix starts to soften and become thin. It can take hours or days to progress through early labour. The first stage of labour is done when the cervix has stretched to 10 centimetres.
Waters breaking is when the amniotic sac which has kept baby safe for 9 months ruptures. The liquid from the amniotic sac is clear and straw coloured. This is a time to call your hospital or midwife to be checked. If your waters are green, yellow or dark it indicates the baby has passed a motion (meconium) into the fluid. This needs assessing by the doctor or midwife.
Mucous or bloody show is when the mucous plug that has been sealing your cervix comes away.
Community Advice: What were other mums’ early labour signs?
(Medical disclaimer: Tips provided need to be considered in conjunction with medical advice. For immediate concerns, please contact HealthDirect (Australia wide) ph 1800 022 222 – to talk to a registered nurse 24hrs a day, and in emergencies call 000.)
Period like cramps that get worse as things go on
- My labour started with period like cramps that come and go. I was feeling like the baby was going to fall out. I also had nausea but everyone is different. With one of my children I leaked fluid but had to go straight into hospital to make sure I didn’t get an infection!! Mimina
Leaking fluid/ waters breaking/ bloody show
Read about mums losing their mucus plug and how long it took to go in to labour
- My early sign of labour was mild amounts of water leaking very early in the morning (thought I’d had an accident rather than leaking waters lol) but I knew once I started getting period like pains they too were quite mild. Rebecca
- I’m currently getting the occasional Braxton hicks contraction and a loss of mucous. With my last 2 births my waters broke before I knew I was in labour. Rebecca
- I didn’t get any my warning when I went into labour. My waters break and then that’s it. Nothing else happens until I’m induced. They can’t even turn the oxytocin off as I don’t continue labouring, I just stop. Cassie
- First baby I had no signs of labour. I was induced 12 days over due. Second baby I had a planned cesarian but was on the phone whinging to my sister that I was over being pregnant and wished this baby would just get out. I stood up and my waters broke with no warning 12 days before the surgery date. Andrea
- I had a loss of plug during the afternoon, my waters broke early the next morning and then my baby was born 2.5hrs later! Melissa
- 1st: didnt really have braxton hicks during pregnancy. My waters broke with no warning and baby was born 14 1/2 hours later.
- I had my show right before I broke (pushed) my own waters and Bub was out 8mins after that. Maegan
- My waters broke at 11am, with period pain and back ache from about 5am. I had really bad pain from about 19:30 and he was born at 21:06. Kristy
- With my third baby I lost mucus my plug and felt period pain. I went to hospital as I was scheduled for an elective section by the time I got to hospital waters were bulging and just about to break. Shi-anne
- I had a loss of mucus plug over 2 days, constant period like pain very low in abdomen contractions then waters breaking. All very routine stuff, except for contractions everyday for 6 weeks before bub was born. Jen
- Braxton hicks for about a week then lost my plug started getting pains and went into hospital 9 hours later and they broke my waters as I couldn’t progress myself and was induced then had my ds 16.5 hrs after that. Jessica
Change in energy levels/ nesting early labour signs
- I got sooo tired the day before labour I kept nodding off everywhere. Next morning I woke full of energy, at 4amI went to the toilet and pop my waters broke lol I had no other signs baby was coming. I was 37weeks, and baby 2 was induced at 38weeks. Krissy
- I had severe amounts of energy for about a week before baby was born, then my waters broke. Symone
- I had energy burst 24 hrs before labour started and the morning my baby was born I just didn’t feel right. Letisha
- The day before my baby was born I cleaned and cooked up a storm. The next day I felt off, I got a little show and then contractions. Katie
- My early labour sign was nesting. Then I had lower back pains and then bloody show. Kirsten
Feeling uncomfortable before labour started
- I couldn’t find a comfortable spot anywhere: sofa, bed, dining chair etc. For the day leading up to starting to feel contractions, which was at about 5pm. My waters didn’t break until late, so only had the uncomfortable feeling up until contractions. Lesley
- My labour starts with wind type pain, feels like I ate some bad chicken or something. Then I have to get myself to hospital quick, my babies come fast. Jes
Pain – back pain/period pain etc
- Constant lower back pain like when you get your period and period cramping in my lower belly.
- I had period like pain but in my lower back at the start of labour. Liza
- I lost my mucus plug, had niggling back and abdominal pain and a really feeling awful for 4 days before labour started… My waters ruptured in the morning of day 5 with no pain until 9 hours later then full blown labour until the morning of day 6. Bianca
- My hips started to ache with both pregnancies, and contractions started a few hours later. I knew the second time it was labour pretty soon after I felt those aches. Kelly
- My first sign of labour was sore, aching legs! The same kind of pain that you have the day after a big workout. Then the pain travelled up to my lower back. I had a loss of appetite too. Melaina
- I had a really bad pain like I had a bladder infection when my labour started. I couldn’t walk properly with it because it was like a pulling pain as you get with bladder infections. The midwife thinks it was the start of labour, but we’re still not sure, so that 40+ hours of labour Tiana
- I woke up with period like pains that worsened throughout the day and that was how I knew labour was starting. Chelsea
- Cramps and lots of pain in my pelvis. Aimee
- Period type pain! Cassandra
- Cramps that start and have a peak then eases off as a pattern. Amie
- So tired drained, lower back ache, Braxton hicks, before both labours. Mel
- 1st: no early signs. I had leakage then strong contractions. Baby came 2 hrs later, 2 days early . 2nd: 1 week late. Had a s&s, a few hrs later started feeling period like pain on and off before becoming stronger. Had baby 8hrs after having the stretch and sweep. Kelly
- Lower back discomfort was my first sign of labour. Heidi
- I felt sick, like I had a flu without the runny nose. Body aches especially my back and pelvis, then my waters broke. Tanya
- Pains in my lower tummy that went around to my bum, pain doesn’t go away. It just gets stronger! Belinda
- Really bad back pain and then about 6 hours later my waters broke, no contractions until they started them for me. Turns out bub had her back to mine so no wonder my back ached so much. Jill
- First time started with what felt like period pain and I started to bleed a little, was until hours later and I literally mean hours 24 to be exact that the contractions started but I couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t know what to do with myself. Shi-anne
Pre-labour contractions / Braxton Hicks
- My constant Braxton hicks turned into painful ones gradually getting more painful and making me hold my breath or breathe through them! Kylie
- First time – water broke then I was induced. Second time I was having increased Braxton hicks and then my water broke and they induced me again. Lost my plug early on around 36 weeks. Delivered both babies at 38 weeks. Leigh
- A few niggles and on and off braxton hicks caught me by surprise when that turned into full on contractions 30 seconds apart and delivered within the hour. Sharni
- With my second baby I had heaps of pains, aches, braxton hicks throughout 3rd trimester. A couple of false alarms. Contractions started at 4am, waters broken at 3:30pm, baby born an hour later – best labour ever – pain for only an hour! Tamara
- I had contractions all over the place. The timings for the contractions were crazy. I woke at 4:30am, went to the toilet and and lost some of my plug. Wasn’t in any pain, it was just annoying. Went to the hospital, the Obstetrician on the ward did a stretch and sweep, admitted me to the room but at 12:30pm she sent me home to see if it would progress. By 5:30pm the contractions were stronger but still not doing anything so I went back to the hospital at 6 she asked if I wanted her to break my waters. I said go for it. 4 hours later I had my boy in my arms. It was the same with my first as well. Lousia
No signs of labour – yes, that happens too!
- I had fast labour, no early signs. Contractions to baby being born in under 40 minutes. Sam
- No signs of labour. My waters broke. Then I had an oxytocin drip to induce. Trisha
- I had no early signs at all, I just woke up early in the morning with contractions and had my baby the next morning. Jade
- Waters just broke through the night with both my girls. Kylie
- I was 3cm dilated for 4 days then induced 8 days past my expected due date. They broke my waters and then 6 hours later my 1st girl was born. She came after 2 hours of constant braxton hicks and then 2 hours of actual labour. It started with the feeling of waiting to do a number 2 but nothing would happen. So altogether 4 hours finally baby girl number 2 was born. (It was very horrible as she came too fast, midwives weren’t ready so I tore resulting in lots of stitches) I am hoping baby number 3 gives me a better labour in June. Bridgitte
- None… I woke up with pains and knew straight away I was in labour ..Lisa-marie
- Nothing until contractions actually started – didn’t even see my plug go. I’d had BH contractions from about half way through pregnancy anyway, and then the early contractions felt like period pain type cramps but at intervals. Lesley
Nausea at the start of labour
- Feeling sick. I went into labour the next day. Diana
- I had constant braxton hicks than I was nausious and vomitting which made my waters break a couple hours after that my contractions started. Paige
This may be the only time in history you want diarrhoea! A lot of women fear pooping during labour so this may be mother nature’s way of preventing that happening!
- Nothing until diarrhoea then that was it!! Renee
- First I woke up with gastro type feeling vomiting with diarrhoea plus cramps that ended up being contractions. My daughter was born 12 hours later. With my 2nd, my waters broke spontaneously 11 days early. I then had nothing for 8 and a half hours – contractions finally started and son was born 3 hours later. Laura
Other early signs you’re entering labour
- All of a sudden no signs of thrush after dealing with it thru out whole pregnancy 2 days later contractions just started 8-10 minutes apart, 3 hours later bub was here. There was no warm up or other signs this time. Maegan
- For both my pregnancies I got a really bad headache that wouldn’t go away. I had very high blood pressure the day before, then I have to go to the toilet a lot and empty my bowels then waters break and contractions start. Alicia
Am I in labour?
Mums share how they knew labour had started