Some signs that labor is approaching include having contractions, water breaking, passing the mucus plug or a process called lightening, according to WebMD. Dilation of the cervix also occurs.
Lightening is a common occurrence before labor, though it can take place hours or weeks before labor, says WebMD. This alone is not a good sign of labor. Lightening occurs when the baby begins to settle lower into the pelvic area to get ready for labor. This often results in having to urinate more often. Contractions may also occur before the first stage of labor begins. Not only is there discomfort in the abdomen and lower back, but the abdomen often becomes hard.
If a woman loses her mucus plug, which is a type of mucus that is clear or pink, it is also a sign of labor, notes WebMD. This usually happens about a week or two before labor begins. If her water breaks, it is typically shortly before labor, as soon as a few hours prior to labor beginning.
Some early signs of labor are also signs of false labor, according to WomensHealth.gov. It is not uncommon for a woman to visit her doctor assuming she is starting labor, when she is actually experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. A good way to tell the difference is by timing the contractions. If the contractions become stronger and more frequent, it is more likely they are due to labor. False labor does not have regularly-timed contractions.