Identifying Labor

How do you know you’re in true labor if you’ve never had a baby before?  The last few days of pregnancy can make for some exciting, nerve-wracking times.  Here are clues that you could be in true labor.

Contact your care provider if these signs happen prior to 37 weeks as you may be in preterm labor.

Click here for a video on preterm labor

In true labor

  1. Bloody show or loss of the mucous plug: This can be spotting or pink-tinged mucous (yes, it basically looks like bloody snot) on a tissue when you go to the bathroom.  It happens when the cervix begins to dilate and the mucous plug that protected the baby from infection drops out.
  2. “Lightening”: This is when the baby drops further into your pelvis.  It’s called “lightening” because you can breathe again due to the baby putting less pressure on your lungs.  You may, however, feel much more pressure on your pelvis and bladder.  Oh well, you can’t have it all!  This can happen a few weeks before labor with a first time mom, and can happen much later for a second time mom.
  3. Rupture of Membranes: This is a sure-fire way to tell if you’re in labor.  This is when the bag of amniotic fluid breaks.  If it’s a high tear it may only trickle and may gush if you were, say, on the toilet or throwing up.  If it’s a lower tear it would be like a rush of water.  If it’s just a trickle, it may be urine (since by now you may have realized your bladder doesn’t function quite as well when you’re pregnant).  If you’re unsure you can go to your care provider and they can test with a pH strip to see if it was truly amniotic fluid.
  4. Effacement and Dilation: When your cervix thins out, becomes soft, and dilates.  If this accompanies regular contractions you’re in labor.
  5. Patterned, Consistent Contractions: In real labor, contractions get longer, stronger, and closer together as time goes on.  They also don’t stop if you drink a lot of water, change your position, or change your activity level.  Sometimes Braxton-Hicks (practice) contractions are regular, but if they go away if you change position they are not true contractions.  Braxton-Hicks contractions may be felt as early as mid-pregnancy.
  6. Nesting: Sometimes moms have a burst of energy right before the baby is born.  You may want to clean the whole house or start a project.  Do what you feel comfortable to do, but still conserve your energy for the marathon that is birth.  Also, if you don’t paint your kitchen, your new baby will not mind.
  7. Feeling Overwhelmed: I added this one because it’s one I felt personally.  The day before I went into labor with my second daughter I had a total hormonal breakdown.  I just felt completely overwhelmed and like I wanted to hole up in my home and conserve.