How will you know when your in labor?
When the bag of fluid that has been cushioning your baby “breaks” with either a gush or a small trickle, you have a definite sign that labor is about to begin. For many women, however, this happens much later in the labor process.
Regular contractions: do they increase or subside with activity?
The beginning of regular contractions is usually the first sign of labor. The Braxton-Hicks contractions you may have noticed during your third trimester were characterized by irregular and painless contractions that felt like a firmness or tightness through the abdominal wall. In contrast, early labor contractions feel more like menstrual cramps, and often involve a backache or feeling of pressure low in the back or pelvis. In true labor, if you increase your activity, these symptoms continue to increase. If you are not really in labor, increasing your activity usually causes symptoms to decrease or disappear altogether. If you are not sure your contractions are “the real thing,” try taking a walk and see whether or not they disappear. If you are less than 37 or 38 weeks pregnant and think you may be in labor, contact your doctor immediately.
How long does an early labor contraction last?
Contractions are timed from the start of one to the start of the next. During early labor, they come anywhere from five to 20 minutes apart and last from 30 to 45 seconds. As your labor progresses, they will come more regularly and closer together.
Track your symptoms and call your provider
If you think you are in labor, call your provider. Depending on the symptoms you describe, and your experience with previous pregnancies, he or she may tell you to stay home until a certain time. Your doctor may also wish to examine you either in your regular clinic or at the hospital.
Early labor can happen at home
In most cases, you will be advised to stay home while you are in early labor because you will be more comfortable there. Early labor is the longest and least intense phase, and can last anywhere from two to 24 hours. Use this time at home to rest, sleep, take a warm shower or bath and walk. Your partner can help by providing encouragement and companionship, timing contractions and staying calm.
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One Patient's Story
Amazingly, her twin boys were born three weeks apart.