You are in labor(childbirth) when you have regular contractions that cause your cervix to change. Contractions are when the muscles of your uterus get tight and then relax to aid you in pushing your baby out of your uterus.
For some people, contractions may feel like extreme period pains. It is important to note that not all contractions mean you are in actual labor. Learning the difference between true and false labor can help you know when it is the real thing.
You know you are in actual labor when:
You have strong and regular contractions.
When you are in actual labor, your contractions last about 30s to 70s and come about 5 to 10 minutes apart. They are usually so strong that you cannot walk or talk the whole time. They get stronger and closer together over time.
If your baby drops or moves lower into your pelvis.
This means that your baby is getting ready to move into position for birth. It is also called lightening and it can happen a few weeks or even just a few hours before your labor begins.
You feel pain in your belly and lower back.
You would authenticate this pain if doesn’t go away when you move or change positions.
You have a bloody (pinkish or reddish) mucus discharge.
This is normally called the bloody show. It is usually a result of the plug of mucus in your Cervix that was closing and preventing infections in the uterus disintegrating and being released vaginally. It can happen a few days before labor starts or at the beginning of labor in one event. The vaginal discharge is usually pink, or slightly bloody.
It is common to head up to labor and not see any bloody show. Your body has many ways of preparing for labor, so it is not necessary to check this off the list for a smooth labor and birth experience.
Your doula can help provide guidance on whether or not what you are experiencing is actually a bloody show.
Your water breaks.
It is important to note that the water breaks in 1/10 of naturally occurring birth events. You do not need to go to the hospital when your water breaks right away. This is because when your water breaks as the first sign of labor, regular contractions will follow increasing in intensity and spacing. However, it could also take hours before you even have your first contraction.
There are a few exceptions as to when you are supposed to go to the hospital once your water breaks:
- If you have been contracting regularly.
- If your water breaks and you feel the cord protruding from your vaginal canal.
- If your water breaks and it is greenish/brown, foul smelling, or accompanied by other signs of infections.
What are false labor and Braxton-Hicks Contractions?
These are the false contractions that are on and off before true labor starts. They soften and thin the cervix to help your body get ready for labor and birth. You may feel them in the weeks right before your due date.
Learning the difference between true labor contractions and false labor contractions can help you know when you are really in labor. The best way to tell the difference between the two is to time your contractions immediately after you start feeling them. Take note of how much time it takes from the start of one contraction to the start of the next for one hour. Actual contractions have regular intervals (They last 30 to 70s each). Also, make note of how strong the contractions feel. Braxton-Hicks/false labor are usually mild and don’t get stronger over time.
Walk or move around to see if the contractions stop when you change positions.
It is advisable to stay at home until your contractions become frequent. Once the contractions are in a regular pattern, make sure to call your doula for guidance.