Is Nausea a Sign of Labor? 7 Signs & Symptoms To Watch For

Pregnant Black Lady Suffering From Nausea Holding Hand Near Mouth.

  • Nausea in the last weeks of pregnancy may be a sign of impending labor.
  • Sudden nausea with headache and vision changes is a medical emergency. 
  • Other signs of labor include regular contractions, a bloody show, and your water breaking. 

Pregnant women are no strangers to feeling nauseous and uncomfortable. Movies, television shows, and books are full of women complaining of nausea, only to find out that they’re pregnant. These stereotypes aren’t far off, since one of the most common first signs of early pregnancy is nausea. Fortunately, this nausea typically subsides after the first few weeks of pregnancy. 

While most women stop feeling sick all of the time during their second and third trimester, nausea and vomiting may reappear at the end of pregnancy. As your growing baby starts to take up more space, you may start to experience more gastrointestinal issues. 

If you find yourself suddenly feeling sick late in your third trimester, you might be wondering is nausea is a sign of labor. While it can be, there are some other signs and symptoms to look for.

Is Nausea a Sign of Labor?

young pregnant woman suffering with nausea at home.

Nausea and even vomiting can be an early sign of impending labor. As your body prepares for delivery, blood may shunt away from your digestive tract and towards your muscles, making you feel nauseated. 

If you start to feel new nausea during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to contact your healthcare provider. New onset nausea accompanied by other symptoms before 36 weeks could indicate preterm labor, and you may need medical intervention to stop labor from progressing. 

Nausea near your due date may also be caused by a condition called preeclampsia. The Preeclampsia Foundation11. Preeclampsia – signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia Foundation. urges mothers with sudden nausea to seek medical treatment immediately. This is especially important if your nausea is accompanied by headaches, blurred vision, sudden weight gain, or new swelling in your hands and feet.   

How to Tell When Labor Is Near

Pregnant Woman Traveling Feeling Nauseated.

While nausea can be a sign of labor, it is not a sure way to predict when your baby will come. If you are getting close to your due date, there are several common signs to watch for that indicate whether or not the arrival of your baby is near. 

Water Breaking

A more obvious sign of labor is having your water break. Some women experience this as a sudden gush of water, while others will lose their amniotic fluid slowly over time. 

To tell the difference between regular pregnancy discharge and your water breaking, notice the consistency and amount of fluid you see. Cervical discharge tends to be thicker and more cloudy than amniotic fluid. 

Painful Contractions

One of the surest signs of labor is having painful contractions that get progressively stronger and happen closer together. To differentiate between abdominal pain from true contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions, use a timer and count the minutes between each contraction. 

Experts at the Cleveland Clinic22. Cleveland Clinic Medical Professional. Braxton Hicks Contractions: Overview & what they feel like. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. state that Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular contractions and do not reach an extremely painful intensity. In contrast, contractions in early labor will happen at regular intervals while continually becoming stronger and lasting longer. 

Bloody Show

If you go to the bathroom and notice pink, red, or brown discharge, you may be experiencing a bloody show. This blood is caused by a rupture of the blood vessels in your cervix as your body prepares for labor. 

Changes in Vaginal Discharge

Many women find it helpful to monitor changes in their vaginal discharge while trying to conceive, throughout their pregnancy, and during the postpartum period. While watery discharge during pregnancy is normal, having pink tinged, extremely thin, or extremely thick discharge can be one of the early signs labor is starting.

Loss of Mucus Plug 

Sometime during the last few weeks of pregnancy, you will lose your mucus plug. The mucus plug is exactly what is sounds like, a glob of mucus that separates your baby from the outside world. 

Cervix Changes

As you reach the end of your pregnancy, your healthcare provider can perform a cervix check to see if you are getting close to delivery of your baby. This is more often done during active labor to see how well you are progressing, and to help you and your healthcare team decide if any interventions will be needed to deliver your baby safely. 


Lastly, nausea is a common sign of labor. While not all mothers will experience nausea before or during delivery, this uncomfortable symptom is not uncommon. Experiencing sudden nausea in your third trimester is worth mentioning to your healthcare provider. 

Why Do You Feel Nauseous When Labor Is Approaching?

Young Pregnant Woman Suffering From Nausea At Home.

When labor starts, a womans body has to focus all of its energy on the delivery of the baby. This means that the blood that would normally flow to the digestive tract is diverted to the uterus and other muscles used to push the baby through the birth canal. During active labor, the body cannot move food through the digestive tract, which leads to nausea and even vomiting

In addition to slowed digestion, some women experience nausea as a side effect of pain medication used during labor. Anxiety that a pregnant woman experiences as labor approaches can also cause nausea and indigestion. 

How Long Before Labor Does Nausea Start?

Pregnant Lady Feeling Sick Having Nausea Standing On Gray Studio Background.

Every pregnancy is different, but most women who experience nausea as a sign of early labor don’t experience feeling sick until a few days or hours before delivering their baby. Some women don’t start to feel nausea until active labor begins. 

Nausea that’s not accompanied by other signs of labor may be caused by a gastrointestinal virus, food poisoning, or preeclampsia. Any new nausea experienced during your third trimester should be reported to your doctor. 

How to Manage Nausea During Labor

Woman getting a contraction and backache at home.

Labor can be uncomfortable enough without the addition of nausea. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help yourself feel better while you prepare for the final stages of labor. 

Ice Chips

While most hospitals and birthing centers will not allow you to eat during labor as a safety precaution, they will allow you to chew ice chips. An empty stomach often makes nausea worse, but taking in a little bit of fluid in the form of ice chips can help. 

In addition to giving you something to chew on, the cold temperature of the ice can help reduce feelings of nausea. If you don’t like to chew ice, you can try an ice pack on the back of your neck or a cool washcloth on your forehead. 

Mint Oils

When you pack your personal belongings, consider adding some mint essential oils to your hospital bag. Occasional sniffs of the oil or placing a few drops behind your ears should help you feel better. 

The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care published a 2019 study33. Keshavarz, M., Amzajerdi, A., Montazeri, A., & Bekhradi, R.. Effect of mint aroma on nausea, vomiting and anxiety in pregnant women. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2019;8(8), 2597. showing that the smell of mint, especially peppermint, is an effective tool for fighting nausea. 

Wrist Acupressure 

A randomized controlled study44. Cooke, M., Rapchuk, I., Doi, S. A., Spooner, A., Wendt, T., Best, J., Edwards, M., O’Connell, L., McCabe, D., McDonald, J., Fraser, J., & Rickard, C.. Wrist acupressure for post-operative nausea and vomiting (wrap): A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2015;23(3), 372–380. published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2015 showed that wearing pressure wristbands helped reduce patients feelings of nausea after cardiac surgery. 

The same trick can be used to reduce nausea during labor. Simply apply gentle pressure to your wrist, a few inches below your thumb. Massaging your wrist with small circular motions can be very effective. 


Does everyone experience nausea during labor?

Not all mothers experience nausea during labor. Most women who do experience nausea during labor start to feel sick immediately before and during the active stage of labor. 

Can nausea during labor affect the baby in any way?

Nausea during labor does not affect the baby in any way. However, if nausea is caused by an illness or high blood pressure, you and your baby could be at risk. Make sure you discuss potential causes of nausea with your healthcare provider.

How can I involve my partner during the labor and delivery process?

Having your partner get you ice chips, apply pressure to your wrists, and apply peppermint oil behind your ears or to your wrists is a good way to involve them in the labor and delivery process. 

Many partners want to help during labor but are unsure what to do. Guide them by letting them know what you need and asking for help. 


  1. Preeclampsia – signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia Foundation. (n.d.).
  2. Cleveland Clinic Medical Professional. (2022, May 10). Braxton Hicks Contractions: Overview & what they feel like. Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Keshavarz, M., Amzajerdi, A., Montazeri, A., & Bekhradi, R. (2019). Effect of mint aroma on nausea, vomiting and anxiety in pregnant women. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 8(8), 2597.
  4. Cooke, M., Rapchuk, I., Doi, S. A., Spooner, A., Wendt, T., Best, J., Edwards, M., O’Connell, L., McCabe, D., McDonald, J., Fraser, J., & Rickard, C. (2015). Wrist acupressure for post-operative nausea and vomiting (wrap): A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 23(3), 372–380.
Is Nausea a Sign of Labor_ 7 Signs & Symptoms To Watch For

The information WonderBaby provides is not intended to be, and does not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. Always consult with a qualified medical professional about your specific circumstances.

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