How Do I Know If I'm In Labor?

questions on giving birth
Top 4 Signs You Are In Labor

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between early signs of labor and false alarms. If you are 37 weeks or more, here are 4 signs that indicate true labor has started:

1. Back Pain
Do you have a persistent lower back or abdominal pain? Sometimes it is accompanied by a crampy premenstrual syndrome (PMS) feeling.
2. Painful Contractions
Have your contractions started? Real contractions gradually become more intense and occur increasingly close together. The contraction pain tends to begin in the lower back and radiates towards the tummy, or starts in the tummy and radiates to the back. In false labor (false alarm), pain tends to stay in the tummy area and subsides as you walk around (this is known as Braxton Hicks contractions).
3. Mucus Plug
Have you passed your mucus plug? Also called bloody show, this is where the thick plug of mucus which was blocking your cervix is expelled. You may notice it being expelled when you go to the toilet. It can look like a solid plug or cork, or it can look like a stringy discharge (see image). It can appear clear or pink tinged with blood. Some women do not notice it passing. It can mean labor is minutes, hours or days away.
4. Water Breaking
Have your waters broken? It may appear like a dramatic rush of water or just a constant trickle. If so, delivery should occur within 24 hours to avoid risk of infection. If there is no sign of the baby arriving the midwife will recommend labor induction with drugs or other natural labor induction methods.

How Real Labor Contractions Feel

• They are regular.
• They follow a predictable pattern (such as every 8 minutes).
• They progressively start appearing closer together.
• They become progressively longer.
• They become gradually stronger.
• The contraction is first felt in the lower back and then radiates to the tummy or vice versa.
• A change in activity or position will NOT reduce contractions.

If you experience the above symptoms then it probably means you are in early labor. As this period may last anywhere between a few hours to a few days, you might choose to spend this phase at home. Your doctor will probably only tell you to head to hospital when you are in active labor.

When To Go To Hospital

The following are signs that you are in active labor. It means you should, if you haven’t already, make your way to your chosen place of giving birth:
• Your contractions have become stronger, last longer and are more painful.
• You have little time to relax in between contractions.
• You feel pressure in your lower back.
• Your cervix is fully dilated to 10cm so that the baby can arrive.

• Need more information about childbirth? See: Guide to Childbirth / Guide To Stages of Labor.
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT QUESTIONS ON FEMALE HEALTH
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