Although every woman's experience of pregnancy and birth is different, heavy and sore breasts are not one of the recognized signs that labor is soon to begin. You might experience and notice some of the common signs yourself, such as changes in your baby's position, or changes in your vaginal discharge. Other signs that labor will begin soon, such as effacement or dilation of your cervix, are generally noticed by your midwife or doctor at a prenatal exam. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or when to expect labor to begin, ask your midwife or doctor. (both refs and common knowledge)
Certain signs are quite common in the days or weeks leading up to labor. For instance, many women experience "lightening," meaning the baby drops farther into the pelvis. You might visually notice the change, or you might notice that suddenly it's easier to breathe, or that you need to use the bathroom more frequently, because the baby has moved down. Other signs you might notice are a change in vaginal discharge -- in particular, light painless bleeding, known as "bloody show," which might be accompanied by the passage of mucus. Heavy or persistent bleeding or pain, however, can be signs of serious problems -- if you are ever in doubt, contact your doctor immediately. Mild irregular contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are another sign that your body is getting ready for labor. Finally, many women experience "nesting" -- a burst of energy during which they prepare for the baby -- in the days before labor begins. (ref 1, pages 74, 186, 302; ref 2, p 112)
Signs Your Doctor or Midwife Will Notice
Other signs that labor is near are typically noticed by your doctor or midwife at your prenatal checkups. Your health provider will often notice changes in your cervix as it begins to stretch. The cervix might become thinner -- your doctor or midwife will refer to this as "effacement" -- and it might even begin to dilate as well. (ref 1, pages 172, 187) These changes provide clues about how soon labor is likely to begin.