When I think back to my pregnancies, I recall that I was big into nesting as I got close to giving birth. But I also remember at 38 weeks pregnant flu-like symptoms.
Great, I’m going to be giving birth with a cold, I mused. Oh, how I didn’t know how right I was.
As it turns out, it wasn’t a run of bad luck. Flu-like symptoms in the third trimester are pretty common before it’s go-time. For me, it was a runny nose before labor. Oh, yes, and sore throat before labor too.
That sore throat didn’t really clue me in simply because I lived in China. The air quality there is awful, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to have a sore throat during my entire time living there (even when I wasn’t pregnant).
My stuffy nose before labor should have perhaps clued me in too. But no, congestion before labor and even body aches before labor are also common in many women.
This topic came up recently with a neighbor of ours, Tracy. Tracy and her husband, Jimmy, are a little younger than my husband and me. They were expecting their first child, and of course, she had loads of questions for me.
Which I didn’t mind one bit!
As she started to get closer to her delivery date, I would make a point to reach out more. If you have anyone in your life, even if you’re not super-close to them, that is expecting, I urge you to do the same. You never know how much that means or how helpful it is.
Jimmy travels a lot for work, and he was trying to get out of a business trip though the coworker that was supposed to cover it got sick. Tracy was about 38 weeks along and really nervous, so I went over there with some food for her – some to eat now and some to put in her freezer so that when the baby comes, she can just heat and eat the food.
Tracy was hesitant to open the door. She said she had a runny nose, sore throat, body aches, and congestion. But she didn’t have a fever.
My alert went off in my head…flu-like symptoms before labor starts!
So, I told her my Spidey-sense was tingling and explained that cold-like symptoms before labor are a sign she could be getting close.
She was worried since Jimmy’s coworker was sick; perhaps he’d somehow given it to Jimmy, who had given it to her.
I’m not the kind of person that thrives on being right about things.
But I was right.
I kept checking in on Tracy daily and urged her that if she needed anything at all to just call us, and we’d be right there.
Well, 5 days later, while Jimmy was midair on his flight home, I got the call.
“I’m having contractions!” Tracy screamed into the phone.
I hurried over there and helped her get to the hospital while my husband stayed behind with our kids. Tracy’s mom also doesn’t live too far, but certainly not in the neighborhood. I waited at the hospital with Tracy until her mom arrived.
About a week later, once she was nice and settled back home, we stopped by to see if they needed anything. Tracy hugged me and said, “You were right! I thought I was getting sick! How did you know I was going into labor?!?”
And you’re probably wondering too, aren’t you? Here’s how I knew…
Are flu-like symptoms a sign of labor?
Yes! But it’s important to note that these symptoms happen in the third trimester, usually at the very end of your pregnancy.
If you feel unwell in the first or second trimester, you may very well be sick. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to ensure you’re ok if you don’t feel well.
Not every woman will get these flu-like symptoms before labor. Some may get them weeks before, while others may get them the week before or even days before. And some may never get them at all.
Can you get cold symptoms right before labor too? You bet! The cold and flu tend to be similar though you will notice you do not feel as ill as you would if you were genuinely sick with pathogens.
What flu-like symptoms do you experience before labor?
This is one of the most subtle signs you could be approaching labor. For most women that have this happen, you may experience:
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Mild cough
- Changes in bowel movements
These symptoms typically only last a few days but contact your doctor if you’re worried. You may also run into the nesting instinct at this time, where you get a burst of energy and rush through the house, cleaning it like a tornado on a mission.
How soon after flu-like symptoms do labor start?
It could be a few weeks before your due date, or it could be a week before. Your hormones are changing to prepare for the baby, so you may experience this.
So, if you’re in your last month of pregnancy and you feel like you’ve got a cold or flu, you can check with your doctor to make sure you’re ok. And you should also double-check that hospital bag because that means you’re coming close to having that baby!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.