It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – the arrival of your baby! There is no way to know exactly when you will go into labor, however, most women give birth between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Although waiting for the birth of your baby is exciting, it can also be an anxious tiime. We hope this blog will answer any questions regarding when labor is beginning and how to tell false labor and true labor apart.
True Versus False Labor
You may have periods of “false” labor or irregular contractions of your uterus before “true” labor begins. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. They are normal but can be painful at times. You might notice them more at the end of the day. It can be hard to tell false labor from true labor. A few differences between true labor and false labor include:
- Timing of contractions
- Change with movement
- Strength of contractions
- Pain of contractions
Signs You Are Approaching Labor
- Feeling as if the baby has dropped lower: Lightening. This is known as the “baby dropping.” The baby’s head has settled into your pelvis. It happens from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins.
- Increase in vaginal discharge (clear, pink, slightly bloody): Show. A thick mucus plug has accumulated at the cervix during pregnancy. When the cervix begins to dilate, the plug is pushed into the vagina. This happens several days before labor begins or at the onset of labor.
- Discharge of watery fluid from your vagina in a trickle or a gush: Rupture of membranes. The fluid-filled sac that surrounded the baby during pregnancy breaks (or your “water breaks”). This happens several hours before labor begins to any time during labor.
- A regular pattern on cramps that may feel like a bad backache or menstrual cramps: Contractions. Your uterus is tightening and relaxing. These contractions increase as labor begins and may cause pain as the cervix opens and the baby moves through the birth canal. This happens at the onset of labor.
Usually, false contractions are less regular and not as strong as true labor. Sometimes, the only way to tell the difference is by having a vaginal exam to find changes in your cervix that signal the onset of labor. One good way to tell the differences is to time the contractions. Note how long it is from the start of one contraction to the start of the next one. Keep a record for an hour. It may be hard to time labor pains accurately if the contractions are slight. If you think you are in labor, call your doctor’s office or go to the hospital. There also are other signs that should prompt you to call your doctor and go to the hospital:
- Your membranes have ruptured (your “water breaks”), and you are not having contractions.
- 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.
It is not possible to know exactly when labor will begin, but we do recommend being prepared and knowing what to expect. Being prepared can make it easier for you to relax and focus on the arrival of your baby when the time comes. You are nearing a special, exciting time in your life, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or to schedule and appointment.