Signs of Labor

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Signs That You’re in Labor — or Will Be Soon.

If you notice any of these signs before your 37th week of pregnancy, call your provider right away.

  • You notice “bloody show,” an increase in mucousy vaginal discharge, which may be tinged with blood. This is a sign that labor will likely start soon. If you see more than a little blood, call your doctor or midwife.
  • You feel a gush or steady leak of fluid, which means your amniotic sac has ruptured. In other words, your water broke. This may or may not include contractions. But either way, once the amniotic sac has ruptured, you’ll need to deliver your baby within 24 hours and you should call your provider.
  • On that note, don’t wait for your water to break as a sign that you’re in labor. Most of the time it doesn’t break until active labor is well underway, or it might even need to be ruptured by a doctor or midwife.
  • You start feeling regular contractions that get longer, stronger, and closer together. Your provider has given you a guideline for when to come in. As a general rule, once your contractions are about five minutes apart, and they each last 30 seconds or longer, you’re probably in labor. Call your doctor or midwife to see when she wants you to come in.
  • Your contractions become strong enough that you have trouble walking or talking through them. This would be a good time to hop in the car — and don’t forget the bag you’ve packed.

Braxton-Hicks Contractions (“False Labor”) or Labor Contractions?

  • Braxton-Hicks contractions are usually painless, and you feel your belly tighten up and become hard to the touch. They are brief and irregular, and if you change your position or move around, they’ll often stop.
  • Labor contractions are often felt lower in the abdomen, and feel more like the ache of menstrual cramps. They might make your lower back and even the tops of your thighs ache, too. Some moms describe a feeling of pressure as well. Moving around or changing position will not cause them to stop.

If you’re feeling painful contractions, DO NOT drive yourself to the hospital. Ask your birth partner, a friend or a family member to take you.