In your last month of pregnancy, you visit the doctor once a week. Because of my thyroid condition, i also have what's called a Non-Stress Test (NST) once a week where they monitor the baby's heartrate. I've had plenty of chances to be examined and told of my "progress" towards labor.
First a primer in the factors that mark a readiness or entry into early labor-- primarily the baby's position and the state of the cervix. As the baby moves lower into the pelvis different stages are noted -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, etc. The cervix starts to soften up and thin out (efface) and dilate. Now the reason the word "progress" is misleading is some women can start moving through these factors weeks before they actually give birth and some move through them only when they're in active labor. So while all babies have to eventually get to a +3 before they can enter the world, and cervixes have to dilate to 10 cm (for vaginal deliveries at least), there's no guarantee that if you've already started the process you'll have the baby anytime soon.
So, now that that's out of the way, at my 39 week Dr. appt yesterday my doctor told me that there had been "significant change since last week." The baby is now at -1 and i am dilated to 2cm. She seemed to think that because i've been closed up tight, this change in a week was important. She seems confident the baby will come in the next week and we won't have to be induced on the 22nd which is plan B. So we'll see. I admit it would be nice to go ahead and keep making some "progress", but i'm also fairly skeptical. Maybe we should start a pool on when the baby will actually arrive.