Can Labor Start While Sleeping? 3 Clear Signs of Early Labor To Check


Labor begins whenever your body decides that it’s time. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. 

When active labor starts, you can be busy sleeping, working, driving, or in the shower. This fact makes many women wonder if they will wake up in time to get to the hospital if labor commences while asleep and what labor signs they may expect upon waking.

These things are of legitimate concern to pregnant women and are not concerns limited or reserved to first-time mothers. You can have six children and not experience similar pregnancies or labor in any of them.

This article is about labor, what to expect when it comes, and can labor start while sleeping. 

We’ll discuss concerns like Braxton Hicks contractions, early signs of labor, what to do when early labor starts, and what contractions feel like for most women.

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Can labor start while sleeping?

Labor can most definitely start while you are asleep. 

And if you can manage to sleep or relax through early labor, you should consider yourself quite lucky.

If this is your first baby and you are in your third trimester or near your due date, you may be nervous about what to expect when labor commences.

Being nervous, anxious, or scared is natural. It doesn’t matter how often you have experienced early or active labor in the past.

Nearly all moms get a bit nervous as the due date draws near, and labor can start anytime.

It is a time in which you get excited to meet your baby while at the same time being scared of what you’re going to have to go through to meet your baby.

Early labor signs

When your baby starts to move down into the birth canal, it’s a good indication that it won’t be long and labor will start.

In early labor, the uterine muscles will begin to contract, but it’s not usually regular or rhythmic yet.

These mild contractions are sometimes described as back pain or, much like intense menstrual cramps. They will come and go sporadically for as long as hours or even days before active labor commences.

Labor looks and feels different for everyone. However, there are common signs that early labor is on its way, and active labor will follow.

The following are things to look out for when it comes to predicting when it’s nearly time for delivery.

Can Labor Start While Sleeping

1. Loss of mucus plug

Your mucus plug is a hardened barrier that forms in the cervix. It is at the cervical opening and keeps harmful stuff like bacteria away from your baby so that your little one and yourself can avoid complications and infections.

Before early labor begins, you may notice that a gooey, thick, sometimes stringy substance comes out while you’re on the toilet or in your panties.

This is your mucus plug and it comes out when the cervix softens, preparing the body for labor.

Also known as the bloody show, you may notice that the plug may have some red or pink tinge, or you may have light spotting.

This can be scary, especially for a first-time mom. Unless you are bleeding heavily or passing clots, however, it’s totally normal.

2. Water breaking

If you experience a gush or a trickling of fluid that doesn’t stop, this is most likely your water breaking. 

When the amniotic fluid is leaking, it means that active labor is on the way. Most women experience strong contractions of the uterine muscle soon after.

Many women find it confusing and hard to tell if what they are experiencing is urine leaking or their water breaking.

Remember that if you feel a sudden burst of liquid or the trickling of fluid does not stop even though your bladder is empty, it indicates your water breaking.

You must contact your healthcare provider as soon as your amniotic sac ruptures. This is a sure sign that you will be delivering soon.

Allowing your pregnancy to continue for much longer after you go into labor in this way can cause severe complications and infection.

3. Contractions start

The first signs of labor are sometimes easy to miss. You may not notice that you lost your plug, or your water may not break at all. However, most moms, especially during the first pregnancy, feel contractions.

At first, you may not know whether it’s actual labor or practice contractions, also known as Braxton-Hicks. This is why you should time them. 

You’re looking for regular and strong contractions that you can’t talk through and that don’t stop when you change positions or activities.

Active labor

Stronger and more regular contractions denote active labor. This is when you need to contact a healthcare provider or go to the hospital. 

Contractions in active labor are five minutes apart for one hour and one minute long.

If you are planning to have a vaginal delivery, doctors will regularly check to see how dilated you are once you get to the hospital or birthing center.

This first stage, in which your body experiences real contractions, can be very uncomfortable and go on for hours.

Can your water break without contractions?

Some women experience contractions first, and a doctor will break their water for them, or the amniotic sac will rupture on its own. Other moms experience their water breaking first, followed by contractions.

Your water can break without contractions happening first. Whatever order it comes in for you, your amniotic sac rupturing means that you have reached the end of your pregnancy. You’ll be delivering soon. 

Most providers will insist upon delivery soon after this occurs.

What to do if you feel labor start

Pregnancy is a wild adventure for most. No two pregnancies, even by the same woman, are the same. 

However, there are ways to help calm the nerves and ease the pain of labor once it begins.

1. Create a calm atmosphere

If your water has not broken, but you are having mild contractions and are just waiting for them to become regular enough to go to the hospital or birthing center, try to create a calm space and a relaxing atmosphere at home.

A warm bath with the lights low, a nap, or some music, are all excellent ways to pass the time and help you get into a calm state while your labor continues to progress.

Can Labor Start While Sleeping

2. Contact your care provider

Your pregnancy is unique, so calling your physician when you are in labor is essential. Your provider may have other concerns based on what you tell them and your unique situation. 

Be honest, follow instructions, and remain calm during this time.

Preterm labor

Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks gestation. Most physicians do not want to deliver a baby born any sooner than this, but in some cases, it is a necessity.

Call your doctor’s office or go to the hospital immediately if you experience any labor symptoms before the 37-week point of your pregnancy. In the best-case scenario, it’s nothing, and it’s a simple false alarm.

Deciding that you’re okay and that it’s “too early” so you can’t possibly be in labor is a dangerous mindset for you and your baby. Don’t put yourself in danger or your baby in danger by putting off calling for help or going to the emergency room.

Suppose your water has not broken, but you show signs of being in labor. In that case, your doctors can sometimes put you on bed rest, admit you to a room for observation, or even give you IV medications that will stop the labor in the hopes that the birth can be held for days, if not weeks longer.

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Labor while sleeping

You can most certainly go into labor while you’re in bed sleeping. 

For moms-to-be lucky enough to sleep through the beginning stages, the rest is a blessing. Don’t worry about not waking up in time. It is important to aim to get as much sleep as possible before heading into labor. Once strong contractions start up, you will naturally wake up.

It is vital to remain as calm as possible when things progress from early labor to active labor. 

You will need your energy, and getting as much rest as possible before you have to start pushing is crucial. 

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