Giving birth marks the end of your pregnancy, but the signs you’re in labor aren’t always so clear-cut. So when should you get in contact with your OB/GYN about the impending birth?
Throughout all of your prenatal visits at The Association for Women’s Health Care, we inform you of what to expect when the time comes and everything else you need to know about the process of labor and delivery.
When you recognize the signs, our team of expert obstetricians is prepared to assist you at our offices in The Loop in Chicago and in Northbrook, Illinois.
Whether you’re months into your pregnancy or simply planning for a future pregnancy, it’s never a bad time to familiarize yourself with the clear-cut (and not so clear-cut) signs of labor. We’ve put together this guide for your reference.
Almost certain signs of labor
You might get to the point in your pregnancy when you worry about early labor, even if your due date is still a few weeks away. Any time you experience a cramp or any sensation that’s out of the ordinary, the question of how close you are to giving birth probably crosses your mind.
While labor symptoms have some slight variance among pregnant women, there are several symptoms that show you’re well on your way to having your baby. You can expect:
When you’re in labor, the contractions you feel happen at regular intervals while generally happening closer together as time goes on. Each contraction lasts 30-70 seconds, and they don’t get any shorter or less intense when you try to alleviate them by changing positions.
When your water breaks, it means the mucus membrane sac surrounding your baby has ruptured, allowing the amniotic fluid to flush out. It might come out in a gush or as more of a light leakage.
In any case, wetness in your vaginal area that you can’t control (that isn’t something else like urine or discharge) is a sign you’re going into labor.
A bloody show
The bloody show is the term for what happens after the mucus plug blocking off your uterus from the outside world comes loose and falls out. The mucus plug itself looks similar to a single large booger or lots of small ones.
After the plug comes out, most pregnant women start to see increased discharge with a pinkish hue from blood. This is what’s called the bloody show.
When you still have some time left
Some changes happen leading up to labor that you’ll notice as soon as they occur, but they don’t mean you need to rush to our clinic just yet. Early signs of labor, or pre-labor symptoms, can start up to a month before actual labor starts and might include:
- The baby descending into your pelvis
- Cervical dilation
- Back pain
- Less (or no) weight gain
- Increased fatigue
Sometimes symptoms like these are concurrent with labor, though, so pay attention to whether or not you’re having consistent contractions and other surefire symptoms of labor.
False alarms can happen
Sometimes complications from a pregnancy share symptoms with labor. There’s also such a thing as false labor, which happens when you experience symptoms of labor but it’s not actually happening.
Luckily, there are some key differences between false labor and actual labor that you can observe and use your best judgment to determine if your baby is on their way. In contrast to actual labor, false labor involves:
- Inconsistent contractions
- Contractions that diminish when you change positions
- No ruptured membranes, water breakage, etc.
- Contractions concentrated in your low abdomen and groin area
When you’re in actual labor, the contractions start in your upper abdomen and radiate downward, even into your lower back. They’re consistent and predictable in their duration and frequency, growing more frequent by the minute.
The intensity of contractions varies, and some women experience only light contractions as they go into labor, but you should pay attention to their pattern.
Pregnancy might feel like an uncertain time, especially if it’s your first time going through it. For more information on what to expect as you approach labor and delivery, schedule a prenatal visit by phone or online at The Association for Women’s Health Care right away.