How to tell when you’re in labor

Awaiting the birth of your baby can be both exciting and anxious. Now that you are prepared for your baby and almost to term, how do you know when it’s time?

Most women give birth between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your provider will keep a close eye on you and the progression of your pregnancy, although there is no way to tell exactly when you’re going to give birth. In fact, birth often occurs within a few days before or after your expected due date. It is important to know what to look for so you know when you are going into labor.

Approaching Labor

Signs you are approaching labor include:

  • Feeling as if your baby has dropped lower. This can happen from a few weeks to a few hours before labor starts.
  • An increase in vaginal discharge (pink, clear, or slightly bloody). This may occur several days before labor begins or at the onset of labor.
  • Discharge of watery fluid from your vagina in a trickle or gush (your water breaking/rupture of membranes). This may occur several hours before labor begins or any time during labor.
  • Contractions moving the baby through the birth canal. These are a regular pattern of cramps that feel like menstrual cramps or a bad backache. This occurs at the onset of labor.

Real or False Labor

You may have “false labor,” or contractions that may be quite painful but do not cause your cervix to dilate. False labor contractions generally stop if you are moving around or walking. They may also stop if you soak in a warm bath or stand in a hot shower. This is normal in some women.

Contractions that grow stronger over time and do not stop when you are active are more likely real labor. It may take several hours to determine if you are really in labor. We encourage you to call and talk to a provider at any time you think you are in labor or are not sure.

If you think you are in labor, call our office immediately.

Call our office if:

  • Your water breaks (this is actually your membrane rupturing)
  • You are bleeding from the vagina (other than bloody mucus)
  • You have constant, severe pain with no relief between contractions
  • You notice the baby is moving less often