How Do I Know I'm In Labor?
One of the most common questions our clients ask us is "How do I know I'm in labor?"
The answer isn't always an easy one! The truth is, you might not know for sure you are in labor until your labor has had some time to progress and you can reflect back on it.
The end of pregnancy and labor are not always definitively split but rather exist as a continuum--throw that in with the fact that many of our clients are expecting their first baby, and determining when it's labor day can be a little nerve-wracking!
Signs of Labor
- Water breaking: Only about 10% of labors begin with the bag of waters breaking, but this is certainly a definitive sign that you'll be having your baby soon. However, you might find that even determining whether or not your water has broken can be a challenge!
- Contractions that get LONGER, STRONGER, and CLOSER together: Most labors begin with contractions, but it will usually take time for those contractions to become strong enough that they are even able to be timed. If you're having trouble figuring out when they happen, you're probably in the early labor phase and should try to just pass the time resting. We've got a great list of things to try in early labor.
- Bloody show or loss of mucus plug: Mucus mixed with pink, brown, or bright red blood is usually a sign that the cervix is opening. But keep in mind that bloody show or loss of the mucus plug can also occur after cervical exams or sex, or just randomly as the cervix begins to thin out and open, even if it's not baby day yet!
- Loose stool: Uterine contractions cause the intestines to contract too, so don't be surprised if you experience diarrhea or loose stool. Think of it as a way to make some extra room for baby ;)
When do I go to the hospital in labor?
Each and every provider has different guidelines, so be sure to check with them, but most providers will recommend you come to the hospital if any of the following occur:
- 5-1-1 (or 4-1-1 or 3-1-1): Contractions are approximately 5 (or 3-4) minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, and have been that way for at least 1 hour.
- Your water breaks and you notice that it has an unusual color or odor or you are GBS positive
- You are experiencing any danger signs, such as the baby not moving normally, bleeding heavier than a period, or severe abdominal pain.
What happens if I'm not in labor?
If you're still at home and labor fizzles out, don't be discouraged! Your body is giving you a rest--take advantage!
If you go to the hospital and the labor isn't progressing, your provider will likely send you home. Many of our clients are worried about going to the hospital too early or when it's a false alarm, but truthfully it's completely normal to want a second set of eyes to check things out!
Childbirth education and labor support with The Chicago Doulas can help you feel more confident about the signs and symptoms of labor so that you can be at ease during the early labor process and arrive at the hospital at the time that is best for you.