How to Tell When Labor Begins

How to Tell When Labor Begins

If you are pregnant and are nearing your estimated due date, you are probably wondering how labor will feel, how long it will take, and how you will know you’re in labor or if it’s a false alarm. It’s hard to predict what it will look like because labor and birth look different for every new mom. But knowing what labor is and what signs to look for will help you know when it’s almost time to meet your baby. 

What Is Labor?

Labor is the process of childbirth that starts with contractions of the uterus and ends with the delivery of the baby. From the start of labor and throughout early labor, the baby will continue to move around.  When labor begins, the cervix dilates or opens and the uterus will start to contract at recurring intervals. Between contractions, the uterus will relax and become soft but when it contracts, the abdomen becomes hard. There are certain changes you will notice that will signal that labor is beginning, some that you may notice and others that you won’t. They are as follows:
  • You will feel the baby dropping lower. This may happen from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins and as a result of the baby dropping, the baby’s head will have settled deep into your pelvis.
  • You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge that is clear, pink, or slightly bloody several days before labor or at the onset of labor. This happens as the result of a thick mucus plug accumulating at the cervix during pregnancy. 

What Is False Labor?

You may experience false labor, otherwise known as Braxton Hicks contractions, in which the uterus contracts on and off before labor truly begins and the cervix does not dilate. These are common but they can also be painful and can occur more frequently towards the end of the day. 

How to Know the Difference Between Labor and False Labor

It can be hard to differentiate between real labor and false labor which is why, in some cases, the only way to truly tell is to have a vaginal exam conducted in which an OBGYN will look for changes in the cervix that signify the start of labor.  Generally, false labor contractions are not as strong and don’t occur as regularly as real labor. A good way to differentiate the two is to time the contractions and note the amount of time between the start of one contraction and the start of the next one. Record this for an hour. Here are some differences you may notice:
 

Contact Your OBGYN

If you have any further questions or think that you may be in labor, contact your OBGYN.
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