The Stage: Prelabor or early labor (loss of the mucus plug)
You'll know you're in it because: Having some funky-looking vaginal discharge? It could be your mucus plug. "The mucus plug is kind of like a cork at the opening of the uterus," says Connie Livingston, RN, BS, president of Perinatal Education Associates in Ohio. "When the cervix begins to dilate, the mucus plug may be released." Some women notice thick, almost snot-like discharge (which may be tinged with streaks of blood); others pass something that looks like a clear to pinkish-tan mass of jelly. But you may not notice a thing -- and that's normal too.
How long it lasts: Minutes to days to not at all.
How to deal: Don't freak out -- but don't get too excited, either. Mucus plugs can re-form, and there's no way of knowing when your labor will really get going. It could be days or it could be weeks.