First-time mothers are sometimes apprehensive about the start of labor. You may ask yourself how you will know when you’re in labor. What are the signs and symptoms? What are some things you should look for?

Keep in mind that every woman is different. Therefore, every woman’s body reacts differently to labor and delivery. While you may experience some of the signs described below, you may not experience all of them. Doctors say that your body will begin the preparatory process about a month or two before delivery. As your body prepares for labor, here are a few symptoms and signs to look for and to be aware of. Remember that these aren’t in any particular order, as women will experience them differently.

Your baby will drop as labor comes closer. The pressure will transfer from your stomach to the top of your pelvis. Because of this, you may find that it is finally easier to breathe. After the baby drops, it is common to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions while your body is revving up for birth. For some women, Braxton-Hicks contractions feel more like having light menstrual cramps. For others, they are painful and occur about every 10-20 minutes. These are generally called false labor or pre-labor pains. During this time, your pelvis is softening, dilating, and preparing for the birth of your baby. Sometimes, what you think are Braxton-Hicks contractions are actual labor contractions. If you have any doubt about this, talk to your doctor.

Along with uterine contractions, you may also experience light to severe back pain. This has to do with the weight and pressure on the spine from the baby. It is a natural part of the birthing process.

Passing your mucus plug is another sign that labor is approaching. Again, this will be different for every woman. Some won’t even notice that the mucus plug has passed. And for some, it will be very noticeable. Some women notice a spotting of discharge.

The most well-known way to recognize labor is if your water breaks, but just like everything else, it is different for each woman. Some have a slow, steady leak of fluid while others have fluid that flows out all at once. If you suspect that your water has broken, call your doctor or go to the hospital. Some women are in labor before their water breaks. When this happens, the doctor may manually break her water for the process to continue.

If you experience a burst of energy at the tail-end of your pregnancy, you may be close to having your baby. Consider it nature’s way of allowing you the energy to make those last-minute preparations for your baby’s arrival. Along with this burst of energy, it is common to have a nesting urge. You will most likely have the urge to organize and reorganize what has already been previously and meticulously organized, or deep clean your entire house, especially the baby’s room. Again, this is just your body and mind preparing for the baby.

While this isn’t as fun as nesting, expectant mothers sometimes notice a change in their intestinal health; diarrhea and constipation are normal and may be a signal of your approaching delivery. There are two main reasons that your body will react this way right before the time of delivery. First, bowel contractions during diarrhea are similar to uterine contractions. Second, your bowels empty in preparation to push the baby from the womb.

Recognizing your body’s preparation for birth is important—it will help you assess the progression of your labor and delivery. Knowing the changes your body will experience those last few months of pregnancy can help put your mind at ease and help you prepare for the coming of your baby.