Every body is different & every pregnancy is different. This is not a pattern you should look out for, I am just telling you MY experience with this second pregnancy & comparing it to my first.
With Sofia, I had early labor for a few weeks before my water broke the night I went from 38.6 to 39 weeks. With baby boy, early labor started slightly earlier, and way more intense. Which does not necessarily mean he will come sooner.
Also note that NOT every woman experiences early labor for weeks, that may just be me and a few, you may just have it for days, or even just hours! It can be an unpredictable in terms of duration.
Rhythmic Contractions: Not Braxton-Contractions. Braxton I had them since week 16, and they got stronger and more frequent as my pregnancy progressed, but they were always irregular and on & off. Suddenly around week 35 they got rhythmic, for a minute long, and very frequent. But this is something that also happened with Sofia so it did not scare me. Apparently to MY body, frequency + regularity does not mean labor is beginning soon, unlike to many others. I now have been having rhythmic and frequent (under 7min) contractions, for over a minute long, for two weeks. But they never increase in intensity, which is what I now need to look for to know I am starting active labor, that or my water breaking like last time.
Cramps with the contractions: When I have a contraction, cramps all over my lower belly + lower back + the back of my upper legs go along with it. Which also usually means active labor for many (since normally, pre-labor contractions are only felt in the belly). This is something that did NOT happen with Sofia until labor day! I had to go get checked just in case, but now we know its not active labor to ME, and its just my body prepping for labor ahead of time. Again, I will need to pay attention to the intensity of these contractions increasing, instead of where I feel them and how often I feel them, to make sure I know I am in active labor.
Lightening. Sofia and baby boy both "dropped" early around week 32, however the lightening has been very intense these past few days as he is descending deeply into the pelvis. I feel a lot more pressure this time. Sofia ended descending last minute, the day of labor. fratelli cafe
Nausea. Definitely nauseous everyday. Nausea is also a sign of active labor, but usually more intense than I have it now. It can also be a common third trimester symptom, but I have not had it until the other symptoms began.
Effacement: My cervix has started to soften and thin, way earlier than with Sofia.
Dilation: My cervix has also started to widen, it's at 2-3cm (as of a week ago), it did not start to dilate until the day of labor with Sofia. And you can also be stuck in a few cm for a while.