24 August 2022

Everyone is excited about your baby’s arrival. Learning the signs and symptoms of labour before your due date can help you feel ready for your baby’s birth.

What is Labour?

Labour (or childbirth) refers to the process by which the foetus and placenta leave the womb. It is a series of continuous and progressive contractions of the uterus (womb), allowing the foetus to move through the birth canal. Usually, labour starts two weeks before or after the estimated delivery date. No one knows what triggers the onset of labour or when it will start.

What Are the Signs That I Will Be in Labour Soon?

You must look out for these pre-labour symptoms, which can happen anywhere from a whole month or more to just an hour before active labour begins.

  1. Nesting instinct

    You have this sudden urge to organise everything. You may be nesting if you get a sudden burst of restlessness or increased energy. This is a natural phenomenon for welcoming a baby. Do not do anything extreme if you experience a spike in the nesting instinct.

  2.  Mild cramps

    You may notice more frequent mild cramps or ‘practice’ contractions (called Braxton Hicks contractions) that feel like tightening or hardening of the womb. There may also be a sensation of pressure buildup or cramping in your pelvic or rectal area.

  3.  Baby drops

    As you approach labour, your baby descends lower into the birth canal. Your baby’s weight no longer presses on your diaphragm, allowing you to breathe more freely. The tradeoff would be more intense pelvic pressure.

  4. Weight gain may slow or stop

    You are nearing the end of your pregnancy if your weight gain slows down or drops. It is normal and will not affect your baby’s birth weight. This may be due to the baby reaching full-term size. However, not everyone will experience a decrease in weight gain.

  5. Diarrhoea

    If you find yourself taking a more frequent trip to the bathroom with loose bowel movements, it is your body’s way of emptying the bowels so the uterus will contract well. Stay hydrated because this is a good sign that you are nearing labour.

What Are the Signs of Labour?

Signs of labour include strong and regular contractions, pain in the lower back and belly, a bloody mucus discharge, and water breaking.

A contraction refers to your uterus muscles tightening up like a fist and then relaxing. Contractions help push the baby out. Contractions in true labour last about 30 to 70 seconds with a 5 to 10-minute interval. They are progressive and intense that you won’t be able to talk or walk for their duration.

In addition to contractions, you will feel pain in your belly and lower back that does not go away even when you move or change positions.

A bloody mucus discharge is called a bloody show. A small amount of mucus, mixed with blood, may be discharged from the vagina. This is a normal sign that your body is preparing for labour.

During pregnancy, your baby is cushioned by an amniotic sac. Labour sometimes begins with the rupture of this sac (also called a bag of waters). The amniotic fluid would gush or leak from the vagina. If your water breaks, you must contact your gynaecologist immediately. If it is not an indicator of true labour, you still need medical attention to prevent infections and delivery complications.

How Will I Know if I Am Having False Labour Contractions?

Contractions can be extremely difficult to determine, especially if it is your first pregnancy. The timing, their immediate pause during certain body movements, and the strength of contractions are significant elements to recognise false labour from true labour. Here are the conditions for both false and true labour so you can make an informed decision.

It is false labour if the contractions…

  • are irregular and have long intervals
  • stop with walking, rating, or changing positions
  • are weak and do not progressively become stronger
  • start strong but eventually gets weaker
  • are felt in the front only

It is true labour if the contractions…

  • are regular, lasting about 30 to 70 seconds each and have a 5 to 10-minute interval between contractions.
  • are persistent regardless of movement
  • progressively get stronger
  • start in the back and move to the front

What Are the Common Types of Pain Relief During Labour?

In addition to listening to music and taking deep breaths, some methods will help you relax and manage the pain better. You may discuss these options with your gynaecologist so that your doctor can come up with the appropriate pain relief method for you.

  • Entonox – is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas through a mask or mouthpiece. It helps in making the pain more bearable. Most use this during contractions. It takes time for this to work, so it is advisable to breathe it in before the contraction hits.

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy – involves using low-voltage electrical current to provide pain relief. A TENS unit consists of electrode pads taped onto your back and is connected to a small battery-powered stimulator. The stimulator sends electrical impulses across the pads to trigger the production of endorphins (natural pain-relieving hormones).

  • Epidural – is the most common type of anaesthetic used to relieve pain during labour. The anesthesiologist will insert a special needle into your lower back. A fine plastic tube called a catheter is passed through the needle. The needle will be removed, and the doctor will inject the drug through the tube to numb the pain in the uterus and birth canal.


The only definite way to know if you are in true labour is to be evaluated by a gynaecologist in Singapore. Listen to your body carefully, and do not hesitate to go to the hospital if your early labour symptoms manifest. WS Law Women’s Clinic provides consultation for various gynaecological conditions.