Signs of Prelabor:
*Nesting* - biggest sign here, in my opinion, because most moms will notice this within a week or so leading up to birth. While the stereotype of this is the frantically cleaning mom-to-be, that's a bit exaggerated (it does happen). 'Nesting' is really just a burst of energy, possibly due to pre-labor hormones that are getting your body ready to shift into gear. I didn't have nesting, I had baking. I didn't realize what it was either, because it started 3.5 weeks before 'due date'; Eden was two weeks to the *day* earlier than her EDD (I knew it was estimated, but expected to go over). Anyway, suddenly in mid-February, it hit me that I didn't know how to bake. How the hell could I be a mommy if I didn't know how to make cookies? I baked all week, making all manners of cookies, breads, and pies. Then I had the baby. I didn't actually start cleaning and setting up the baby stuff til my water broke and I said, "Damn, I thought I had two more weeks."
*Increase in vaginal discharge* - I think this is the next common sign. Usually you'll notice a change a day or two before the baby comes. Sometimes more.
*You're dilated* - Happens early for some moms, and that's a really great sign, actually. It doesn't mean labor is imminent, though, especially if you don't have consistent contractions (or 'surges', if that's the word you prefer. I know many women do. Surges are full of power and easy to flow with, while contractions are tight and painful....) My client right now, who is due in a month, is walking around at 2 cm. That's great, cause it shows your body knows what it's doing and should work really well when the time comes to birth your baby.
*You're effaced* - 'Effaced' means your cervix is thinning out. Sometimes it begins before labor actually does. A lot of women pay attention to how many cms they're dilated, and get disappointed if they're laboring for a few hours and learn that they're not any further dilated. However, if they're effacing or the baby has moved further down the birth canal, those are awesome signs of progress.
*You lose your mucus plug* - This is similar to dilation, I think, in that it doesn't necessarily mean birth is that day, but it's definitely a sign that your body is turning down the birth path (and this is likely your last rest stop, lol).
*Stronger or more frequent practice (*irregular*) contractions* - Practice contractions can begin far in advance, too, but if you notice them getting stronger or coming more often, it's likely prelabor. If these at all become regular, even if far apart - like, every hour or half hour - *that's* likely early labor, not prelabor. And that is a great time to get yourself something to eat - make sure it's not too sugary, but it's something that will give you energy while still being easy to digest. Things like scrambled eggs & toast, water, soup, yogurt, water, cream of wheat/oatmeal, cottage cheese, water... You want healthy but light. Your stomach will be doing some work, so now is not the time to celebrate with steak and potatoes. Early labor, when your contractions are regular but still light and far apart, is also a good time to get some sleep. You'll really need to rest. Sometimes eating or sleeping might make the contractions go back to being irregular, or possibly even stop all together. That's ok. Actually, that's really great for you if that's the case, because they'll eventually start back up. It's much better to deal with those after you're well rested and fed.
*Diarrhea* - That's usually a sign that it's getting close. Your body is cleaning out to make way for baby.
*Your membranes rupture* - Sometimes this happens before you go into labor. For me, it happened exactly 12 hours before I started contracting - with both kids. Usually your CP will have a protocol they like to follow when this occurs. Some will want to wait up to 24 hours for your labor to start, but many only prefer waiting 12 hours. As long as there's no problems with you or the baby, they're more likely to wait longer.
I was Group B Strep positive with Ivy, which meant that my midwives wanted me to go in every 4 hours for antibiotics after my water broke. I could have refused, and some women do, but they would have had to switch me to the OB they're affiliated with. I prefered antibiotics and keeping my midwives, since I knew my body would go into labor within 12 hours. I also had to meet them at the hospital within 12 hours, which I did, admittedly to avoid confrontation. I did this because I knew that they're required to follow a certain protocol, and I was saving my fight for the big one - the OB they work with prefers a starting pitocin after 12 hours. I was contracting, but they were still 15-30 minutes apart when I got to the hospital. OB ordered pit, and I *repeatedly* refused. That was my right, and that was most important to me. Midwife was willing to 'let us' try natural stimulation methods, but she was concerned that they were still so light. She knew I was right that my body would pick up and do it once they got started, but she said we 'really need to try to establish a strong contraction pattern'. I said, "Ok, just let me go to the bathroom first. Everybody out," and ended up getting her just in time to come catch a head. :P
So that's my list, and I appreciate any extras or corrections.