It's the question on the minds of many soon-to-be moms: How will I know when I'm truly in labor? By knowing what signs to look for, you can get a good idea of whether you're ready for a trip to the hospital or if your body is just rehearsing for the big event.
You may be in real labor if you experience the following:
- Effacement: The cervix becomes progressively thinner, softer, and dilated.
- Persistent lower back pain, especially if it's accompanied by a crampy, premenstrual feeling.
- The appearance of bloody show. If you pass the mucus plug that blocks the cervix, labor could be imminent—or it could be several days away. Still, it's a sign that things are moving along.
- Breaking of the bag of waters, but only if it's accompanied by contractions.
- Contractions that are stronger, last longer, and occur at regular intervals, such as every five or seven minutes apart.
To time your contractions, use a watch with a second hand, a stop watch, or a digital timer that displays seconds. You need to monitor and record the following:
- Duration: How long do the contractions last? Time each contraction from the moment it begins until it ends.
- Frequency: How far apart are the contractions to each other? Time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.
Call your physician immediately if you have more than six contractions per hour and if they come with back, abdominal, or pelvic pain.
If you have regular contractions and your membranes rupture, you are most likely in regular labor. The crucial thing to remember is—if you think you are in labor, call your doctor, day or night.
There are many ways to deal with early active labor. This depends on both your desires and those of your doctor or midwife. Discuss this with your practitioner. Explain to him or her exactly what it is that you would like to do. Some women prefer to walk for as long as they can, while others prefer to lie in bed.