You're unlikely to mistake the signs of labour when the time comes, but if you're in any doubt don't hesitate to contact your midwife or doctor managing your pregnancy.
Early signs of labour
Giving birth will be different for every woman, but the main signs that you are starting labour will most likely be strong, regular contractions, and a 'show'. During your pregnancy, a plug of mucus sits in your cervix. A show is when that plug of mucus comes away, indicating that the cervix is starting to open.
Other signs that you are going into labour can include:
- your waters breaking (rupture of the membranes)
- backache, or an upset stomach
- cramping or tightening, similar to period pain
- a feeling of pressure, as the baby's head moves into the pelvis
- an urge to go to the toilet caused by your baby's head pressing in your bowel
Stages of labour
There are 3 stages to labour.
The first stage is when your contractions increase, and your cervix begins to open up (dilate). This is usually the longest stage.
The second stage of labour is when your cervix is fully open. This is the part of labour where you help your baby move through your vagina by pushing with your contractions.
The third stage is after the birth of your baby, when your womb contracts and causes the placenta to come out through the vagina.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: January 2020