Posted: Jan 19, 2014 6:00 AM
Pregnancy stories of false labor contractions may have you doubting your ability to tell when it's go-time, but a few telltale signs may hint that your baby-to-be is about to make a grand entrance into the world. From lightening to contractions, learn how to scope out these six signs of labor while pregnant.

Sign #1: Lightening

Increased pressure in your pelvis, more frequent trips to the bathroom and your ability to breathe easier are all signs that your pea in the pod is getting ready to make his or her descent to the birth canal. It may also be the cause for the well-known pregnancy waddle.

Sign #3: Cervical changes

You may be surprised at how anxious you are for your pelvic exams at your final prenatal visits; it's the only way for your doctor to know if, and how much, your cervix is beginning to thin and dilate. However, this process, known as effacement, can take weeks, days or hours until you deliver.

Sign #2: Nesting

The strong urge to clean and decorate may not be scientifically proven, but many a mommy-to-be will attest that the desire to prepare the "nest" for baby is strong. Just be sure to save some energy for labor and delivery.

Sign #4: Bloody show

Although some mommies-to-be simply miss this sign of labor, passing your mucus plug, also known as your bloody show, occurs when your cervix dilates and blood vessels break. You may lose your plug in one piece or in small parts, which often show up in your discharge over time.

Sign #5: Water breaks

Ranging from a trickle of amniotic fluid to a gush, breaking your water is one of those movie-worthy signs of labor many mommies fear will happen in public. Keep in mind that only a few women experience these ruptured membranes prior to heading to the hospital, but contact your OB-GYN immediately if the fluid isn't clear and odorless.

Sign #6: Contractions

While Braxton Hicks contractions help your body prepare for labor, consistent abdominal tightening is a sign that labor is imminent. "The difference between the labor that starts and then stops and the one that brings the baby out into the world is just that -- one keeps going, grabs the woman's attention totally and brings the baby out," explains doula Betsy Mercogliano, Family Life Center.

While some signs of labor can last weeks, signals such as your water breaking or close contractions warrant a call to the labor and delivery ward. Bear in mind that the most important thing you can do in your last trimester of pregnancy is to rest up -- you'll be meeting your bundle of joy before you know it!

More about the third trimester

The third trimester: Will the baby ever arrive?
The top five things no one tells you about the third trimester
The third trimester: A guide to your baby's development