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Am I in labor??

This question has probably been asked a million times by pregnant women everywhere. But how do you really know if you’re in labor or a false alarm? Whether this is your first, second or third baby, odds are you’ll be nervous just waiting for that time to arrive.

During your prenatal visits and childbirth classes you may have heard a number of terms regarding labor—early, preterm, active, back or labor induction. All of these terms mean one very important thing; childbirth is near.

What are some signs to look for?

According to HealthDay.com, there are six concrete clues you’ll soon be there. Just as every pregnancy is different, every delivery is unique. Some women may not experience any symptoms at all, while others may have weeks of varying signs.

  • Lightening: You can breathe easy again
  • Effacement: Your cervix ripens
  • Dilation: Your cervix opens
  • Bloody show: Your mucous plug dislodges
  • Rupture of membranes: Your water breaks
  • Consistent contractions: When your labor really gets going.

When will you into labor?

The American College of Ob-Gyns provides an excellent FAQs page to answer the most frequently asked questions about labor. The average length of pregnancy is 280 days, or 40 weeks. But there is no way to know exactly when you will go into labor. According to the ACOG website, the more you know about what to expect during labor, the better prepared you will be once it begins. Remember the 5-1-1 contraction rule: the contractions come every five minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour.

What is “false” labor and “true” labor?

During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through so many changes as it prepares for that all-important delivery. There is also great excitement and expectancy for what’s to come. But how do you know what’s true or false labor?

ACOG notes that usually, false contractions are less regular and not as strong as true labor. You can time your contractions and note whether they continue when you are resting and drinking water. If rest and hydration make the contractions go away, they are not true contractions.

  • True labor contractions come at regular intervals. They have a pattern. As time goes on, they get closer together. Each lasts about 60 or 90 seconds.
  • False contractions do not have a pattern and they do not get closer together. These are called Braxton Hicks.
  • True labor pain usually starts in the back and moves to the front.
  • False labor pain is usually felt only in the front.

When to call the doctor or go to the hospital?

Your health care team have been your caring partners during pregnancy, and they will be there to help guide the journey to motherhood. If you think you are in labor (or not sure), call your ob-gyn or other obstetric care providers. You should go to the hospital if you have any of these signs according to ACOG:

  • Your water has broken, and you are not having contractions.
  • You are bleeding heavily from the vagina.
  • You have constant severe pain with no relief between contractions.
  • You notice the fetus is moving less often.

Remember to prepare for this final phase of your pregnancy by using what you learned in childbirth classes and relying on your labor coach and medical team. With their encouragement it will give you the confidence to push through this phase to delivery.


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The information on this site is intended to raise awareness, and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis, or a substitute for health care by your physician.

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