Home » How to Know Labor Is 24 to 48 Hours Away? 8 Clear Signs

How to Know Labor Is 24 to 48 Hours Away? 8 Clear Signs

Signs Your Labor Is 24 To 48 Hours Away
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Each woman’s body is unique, and labor may manifest in different ways. However, there are some common signs that your body is getting ready for the big event. These signs may typically appear 24 to 48 hours before labor begins.

Some of the signs that might indicate nearness to the delivery date may include dilation of the cervix, sudden abdominal contractions, nausea, or lower back pain. Some women hardly notice early labor signs, and only some expecting women experience them all.

Labor kicks off with strong uterine contractions that help your cervix (the opening at the base of your uterus) enlarge and thin out as your baby moves down the birth canal. As your due date nears, every little sensation might make you wonder if it’s starting.

Thankfully, your body has some clear ways of letting you know labor is on the horizon. This article lists 8 signs that may indicate that labor is 24-48 hours away. It also highlights the stages of labor and situations that may require medical intervention.

Signs Your Labor Is 24 To 48 Hours Away

Stages of Labor

Each stage of labor holds a vital role in the birthing process, with specific milestones marking the progression towards childbirth.

Stage Description Key Events
Early Labor The initial phase, where the cervix begins to dilate Onset of contractions, mucus plug release
Active Labor Intense phase leading to the birth of the baby Strong, regular contractions, cervix fully dilated
Delivery Expulsion of the placenta after the baby is born Contractions continue, placenta delivery
  1. Stage 1: Early labor

    The initial phase, also called early labor, comprises two distinct phases:

    • The Latent Phase: Women may experience strong contractions occurring at intervals of five to 20 minutes in this phase. During this phase, the cervix dilates approximately three to four centimeters and goes through thinning, shortening, and softening. It is the longest and least intense part of labor. Hospital admission may occur during the latent phase.
    • The Active Phase: In the second phase, the cervix dilates from four to 10 centimeters. Contractions become more severe, lasting longer and occurring more frequently, typically every three to four minutes. The phase is usually shorter than the latent phase.
  2. Stage 2: Pushing stage of labor

    This stage marks the shift from early contractions and the opening of the cervix to the actual birth of the baby. It is a vital phase where the mother plays an active role in pushing the baby out.

    Crowning characterizes this phase, which occurs when the baby’s head is partially visible at the vaginal opening. It signals the imminent arrival of the newborn.

    The following table provides a clearer picture of the second stage of labor:

    Aspects of Stage 2: Pushing Stage of Labor Description
    Commencement Begins at full dilation of the cervix
    Maternal Involvement Active participation in pushing the baby out
    Crowning Baby’s head becomes visible at the vaginal opening
    Duration Typically shorter than the first stage, lasting between 30 minutes to three hours for first pregnancies
  3. Stage 3: Final stage of labor

    During the final stage of labor, the placenta comes out of the uterus and through the vagina, which usually takes up to 30 minutes. These are the features that mark the final stage of labor:

    • Placental Delivery: Stage 3 marks the completion of the birthing process, ensuring the safe expulsion of the placenta.
    • Uterine Contractions: These contractions help detach and expel the placenta from the uterine wall.
    • Maternal Monitoring: Healthcare providers closely monitor the mother’s condition during this stage to prevent excessive bleeding.
    • Postpartum Care: As the placenta is expelled, doctors pay close attention to prevent any complications and support the mother’s recovery.

8 Signs That Labor Is 24 To 48 Hours Away

  1. Diarrhea

    During early labor, women may experience diarrhea due to elevated prostaglandin levels, which help prepare and dilate the cervix. Increased prostaglandin levels could also stimulate the bowels, resulting in diarrhea.

    Experiencing diarrhea before labor is a common occurrence, as it is the body’s way of clearing out the digestive system. It helps make room for the baby to move through the birth canal without any obstructions.

    Women may experience diarrhea in the hours before labor begins, often a sign that the body is preparing for the upcoming birth. It may be one of the many indicators that labor is imminent.

    You should stay hydrated if you are experiencing diarrhea before labor. Drink adequate water to prevent dehydration and maintain your energy levels during this time.

  2. Braxton Hicks contractions

    Braxton Hicks contractions, also called ‘practice contractions,’ are typically painless but might cause a sensation of squeezing and tightness in the belly. These contractions often occur irregularly, unlike normal labor contractions that follow a more consistent pattern.

    Compared to actual labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually less intense and do not increase in severity over time. Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause any significant changes in the cervix, unlike standard labor contractions.

    Alternating your position or activity levels might help reduce Braxton Hicks’s contractions. It distinguishes them from normal labor contractions that continue regardless of movement.

  3. Nausea and vomiting

    Feeling nauseated a day or so before labor starts is common among women. The contractions that accompany early labor may also trigger nausea and vomiting in some women.

    Hormonal changes, particularly the release of prostaglandins, may lead to gastrointestinal disturbances like diarrhea and nausea as the body prepares for childbirth. These symptoms may indicate that labor is drawing near, but they are not definitive predictors of labor.

    Expectant mothers should stay hydrated and try to eat small, light meals if nausea persists. If other concerning symptoms accompany vomiting, consulting a doctor is advisable.

  4. Bloody Show

    A bloody show might be an early sign that labor is starting. It is characterized by a small amount of mucus mixed with blood coming from the vagina. It could signal the shedding of the mucus plug that seals the cervix during pregnancy.

    The cervix begins to thin out, soften, and dilate in preparation for childbirth. It could trigger the release of the mucus plug, which might happen days or hours before active labor starts. It may be a positive indication and a normal part of the pre-labor process.

    Women should monitor changes in their vaginal discharge carefully. Other signs like contractions, cramps, or pelvic pressure may accompany the bloody show.

    Expectant mothers experiencing a bloody show should ensure they are prepared for labor within the next 24 to 48 hours, as active labor is likely to follow. They should consult a doctor to discuss the timing and progression of labor.

  5. Labor Contractions

    Irregular contractions may signal the onset of labor and could vary in intensity and frequency. These early contractions are not consistent in duration, strength, or spacing, setting them apart from active labor contractions.

    Women may experience sensations resembling menstrual cramps, pressure in the lower pelvis, overall discomfort, or even back pain during labor contractions. As labor progresses, contractions may become more regular, intense, and painful.

    Active labor contractions usually occur every two to three minutes, lasting about a minute each. These contractions are a major sign that labor is near and that delivery may occur within the next day or two.

    Expectant mothers could use a contraction tracker, which could help them monitor the pattern of contractions accurately. Monitoring the intensity and frequency of contractions is essential in determining the progression of labor.

  6. Rupture of the amniotic sac

    The rupture of the amniotic sac is a major sign of active labor. The rupture leads to the release of amniotic fluid through the cervix and vagina, with labor usually commencing within hours of the sac breaking.

    In some situations, the amniotic sac may rupture before any other signs of labor present themselves. Such an event is commonly referred to as the “water breaking.” After the amniotic sac ruptures, expectant mothers should note the color, odor, and volume of the amniotic fluid.

    Clear or slightly yellowish fluid is normal, while green or brown fluid may indicate fetal distress. A large gush or a continuous trickle of fluid signals a full rupture. A slow leak could mean a partial rupture that might require medical attention.

    If the ruptured amniotic sac does not lead to labor, especially if the baby is overdue, medical procedures may be required to induce labor. It is done to prevent potential complications like infections that may arise due to prolonged rupture of the membranes.

    Maintaining communication with doctors after the rupture of the amniotic sac is vital. It could ensure the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby.

  7. Nesting instinct

    The nesting instinct is a common phenomenon among expectant mothers. Expectant mothers may suddenly feel a burst of energy and motivation to organize and clean their living spaces.

    The urge to prepare the home for the baby becomes a top priority, leading to activities like setting up the nursery and washing baby clothes.

    Some mothers may notice that the baby has dropped lower in the belly, a sign that the body is preparing for labor. As labor nears, the baby’s head might start moving toward the birth canal in readiness for delivery.

  8. Lower Back Pain

    Lower back pain during labor may indicate uterine contractions or the adjustment of pelvic bones as the baby descends further into the pelvis. The following signs characterize it:

    • Uterine Contractions: The uterus pain may be a result of the uterus contracting as labor progresses.
    • Pelvic Bone Adjustment: The movement of the baby down the birth canal may cause the pelvic bones to shift, leading to lower back pain.
    • Continuous Discomfort: Pain in the lower back may persist and intensify as labor approaches.
    • Sign of Progress: Experiencing lower back pain may signify that the body is getting ready for the final stages of labor.

    If the back pain becomes severe or accompanies other concerning symptoms, seek medical advice to ensure maternal and fetal well-being.

When to Go to the Hospital for Labor?

When you experience regular contractions that are consistently felt in the back and around the stomach, it may be a sign of early labor. These contractions are typically painful, lasting about a minute.

First-time mothers should head to the hospital sooner, especially if the contractions are becoming more intense and closer. However, if you have had previous births, your labor may progress more quickly.

If your water breaks, it may indicate that you are in the active stage of labor and should seek medical attention promptly. Knowing the appropriate timing to proceed to the hospital during labor is vital to ensure a safe and well-supported delivery process.

You should monitor the frequency and intensity of your contractions using a contraction tracker. It could help you determine when it’s time to go to the hospital.

Remember, every labor is unique, so it’s essential to stay in close contact with your doctor and follow their guidance for a smooth labor progression.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Nausea and Diarrhea Occur Without Signaling Labor Onset?
    Nausea and diarrhea may sometimes be associated with approaching labor. However, they are not definitive signs and may not necessarily indicate labor onset.
  • How Can One Differentiate Between True and False Labor Contractions?
    Active labor pains are regular, intense, and closer together. Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and less painful than normal labor contractions. Normal labor contractions may be consistently felt in the back and around the stomach.
  • Does Labor Always follow the Loss of the Mucus Plug?
    The loss of the mucus plug is often associated with labor onset, as it could signify changes in the cervix. While it may indicate approaching labor, its absence doesn’t always immediately precede the start of labor in every case.
  • What Should One Do if Water Breaks Before Contractions Start?
    If water breaks before contractions, seek medical guidance promptly to ensure the safety of both mother and baby. Contact your prenatal provider or go to the hospital for evaluation, as this might indicate the onset of labor.


As your due date nears, you might start experiencing regular contractions. If you experience signs like cervical changes, rupture of the amniotic sac, bloody show, etc., it could mean that your labor is 24-48 hours away.

Labor contractions won’t all occur at the same intervals. However, if they start becoming fairly regular, uncomfortable, and lasting longer than 40 to 60 seconds each, it may be time to visit your doctor.

If you’re unsure but think you might be in labor, contact your doctor. They could answer your doubts and queries about labor and guide you toward a safe and healthy pregnancy.

  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.
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