When I was pregnant with my eldest, I remember sitting on my bed for just a minute to rest before I knew I was pregnant. I woke up with a start 2 hours later. I’d never done that before, just fallen asleep like that.
A few other clues and my late period would have me scrambling for a test, the test that revealed I was going to be a mama.
I was exhausted during my first trimester for both my eldest and youngest. I found it funny, considering that I really should’ve been much more exhausted the second time around, dealing with my then-toddler eldest running around.
But when the second trimester rolled around, I felt great.
And then, it was the third trimester. And I was exhausted. In fact, all I really wanted to do was sleep. The closer I got to my due date, the more I wanted just to sleep, sleep, sleep.
Honestly, it was no different from being 15 years old and not wanting to get up for school.
But being exhausted before labor is a thing. Pre-labor fatigue is real, and I’ll be discussing why that happens.
Conversely, you should know that being super tired before labor isn’t the only thing. You may have that rabid burst of energy too.
- You may feel unbearably exhausted just before going into labor, to the point of fatigue.
- Likewise, you could go bonkers cleaning everything and running around like the Energizer Bunny.
- Learn all the signs that labor is coming from these extremes to back pain, cramps, and more!
Do you get exhausted right before labor?
Let me answer this with yes and no. I knew plenty of mamas that were as tired as I was. But I also knew many that were bouncing with energy right before labor.
And there were others like me – they could sleep for days if you let them, yet when they were awake, they wanted to clean and polish every surface in the house.
That’s pregnancy for you, though. It’s a crazy journey with a wide range of normal going on. You could be one extreme one day, the other the next day, or both on the same day. Or you could just be tired or energetic. It depends.
Is sleeping a lot before labor normal?
Oh absolutely. In fact, I was so happy I slept a lot before labor. Because I knew it would be a long time, years even before I’d ever get that kind of sleep again.
They say sleeping late in pregnancy is best for your labor and delivery anyway. It is like an epic sport, and you must rest up.
But don’t feel bad if you can’t sleep enough. Just try to rest your body and do something relaxing. This will help you restore and refresh too.
How long after the burst of energy is labor?
With nesting, this instinct compels you to organize, clean, and make everything in your nest, so to speak, perfect. If the irresistible desire to do this happens late in your pregnancy, PAY ATTENTION. This could mean labor is 24 to 48 hours away.
It’s probably a good idea to reorganize that hospital bag while you’re at it. You’ll need to throw that in the car soon.
What other signs of labor should I know about?
I have to tell you that I was a mixture of both of these things. Though I didn’t realize it at the time.
My mother-in-law came over the day I went into labor with my eldest. All I wanted was to simply rest without being bothered. I was blissfully napping away when she barged into our home.
I tried really hard to be nice. I know she was just trying to help, but I wanted her to disappear. In fact, I prayed that I would not go into labor while she was there. I somehow knew somewhere that my deep exhaustion and desire to sleep for hours at a time was rooted in the fact that this baby was going to make her grand entrance into the world soon.
Days before, my mother-in-law had come into our home right after I’d cleaned everything. I hated living there but let me tell you, I had our floors shining like new. Every surface in that house was immaculate.
Then she trudged on in from the bland smoggy dirt trap outdoors that they named China. She tracked mud on my floors. She made a mess. And when she left, do you know what I did? I cleaned everything AGAIN.
So, if you’re tired in the last weeks of your pregnancy, energetic/neurotic about cleaning, or a mixture of both, this is really normal.
Though don’t rush to the hospital just yet! Here are some of the other signs labor is coming.
Water breaking and losing the mucus plug
This does NOT happen in every instance of going into labor, though if it does happen, get ready for action. Remember that you will see your doctor once per week during the last few weeks of pregnancy. They will be checking your cervix for dilation at that time.
You may experience water breaking, though if you’ve read my story, try not to worry because that’s so rare for it to burst out like in the movies. I’m just dramatic like that; what can I say?
Side note: my eldest IS dramatic, and she cracks up now that this was how she announced she was ready to come out.
Anyway, most women will experience this with a little trickle of water or feeling like their underwear is just a little wet. Very few of you will have that gush of water bursting out as I did.
You may also notice your mucus plug coming out, likely while on the toilet or in your underwear. It’s sometimes clear, sometimes pink, and may have a little blood. That’s why they call this a “bloody show.” I think of an angry British person being dissatisfied with performance when I hear that, but that’s just me.
However, you may even lose this plug week before labor happens. Most of the time, it will be hours or just a few days before going into labor.
Your body may shed some of the extra water weight prior to labor. If you weigh yourself daily and notice you’re about 1 to 3 pounds lighter at the end of your pregnancy, get your hospital bag and double-check it again.
You may also notice that you’re peeing way more than usual. This is because some little someone has dropped down and is pressing on your bladder.
At one point, I joked I was just going to stay in the bathroom all day because I was sick of getting up every time I had to pee. On second thought, this may be why I was so exhausted!
Pain in your lower back is a really common sign of labor approaching. Yes, yes, I know…it’s also common throughout pregnancy. BUT! This pain may worsen when you have 24 to 48 hours before your body goes into labor. And changing positions doesn’t seem to do the trick anymore. It starts radiating to your pelvic area, and it’s soooooo uncomfortable.
Dilation of the cervix
This is one your doctor will inform you about during your checkups. It is completely normal not to dilate during that time, but many women like my friends Kim, Tanya, Gabby, and Jessa all had that happen. They weren’t in labor but dilated slowly over a few weeks.
You need to be about 10 centimeters dilated to start delivery. To give you a comparison, I was 2 centimeters dilated when I rushed to the hospital with my wet pants from my water breaking. I was only 6cm by the following day, but they said we could finally do the epidural. Huzzah!
Loosened joints, and stools
Another sign this kid will be evicted from your uterus soon is that your joints are more relaxed thanks to the aptly (and amusingly) hormone relaxin. This stuff helps your body turn into a funhouse of sorts to push the baby out into the world.
But before labor kicks in, it may also send you scurrying for the bathroom, not for peeing. I remember having diarrhea soon before I went into labor; plenty of mamas I know did too.
And the last thing, of course, is contractions. They will come in strong and become more frequent. As they get closer together and stronger, if they last longer than a minute, it’s time.
I will say this…do not rush to the hospital when you are 15 minutes apart. Take your time. Take that shower. Trust me here. I was in that awful Chinese hospital on that rock of a bed for longer than I wanted to be.
For my youngest, I went into labor around midnight, and since my contractions were far apart, I went back to sleep and took my time taking a shower. When we got to the hospital the following day, I felt those contractions more and was sent for surgery prep before being wheeled into the OR. It was a much easier experience the second time around.
Anyway, for all your rest and energy, just go with it. You’ll be holding that baby in your arms soon!
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, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.