How Do I Know if I’m in Labor?

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 Oh boy (or girl)!

If you are pregnant, you may find yourself becoming more and more concerned about delivering your baby at some fast food restaurant. Perhaps you are feeling too inexperienced, worried you won’t recognize the signs once you are truly in labor. Rest assured, the vast majority of women make it to the hospital in plenty of time.  When labor is upon you … you will know it.

Only 1% of pregnancies will ever end in a sudden, intense urge to push with no previous labor symptoms!

There are various symptoms you will experience once you’re in labor. Certainly, many women are misled by these symptoms, often nothing more than Braxton Hicks contractions, during the later months of pregnancy. Still, contractions are definitely a sign of labor.

The consistency and duration of your contractions are what matter most. Track them. If they continue to come faster and harder – chances are you’re in labor.

If you are gauging “real labor” by contractions alone, it is important to ascertain whether or not the intensity of your pain and contractions change when you move your body into a new position. Real labor will not go away because you lie down or take a walk. If you suspect that you’re in labor, start timing your contractions with a clock. Are they getting closer together? One thing to keep in mind is that the average time that first-time mother will labor for is about nine hours. For mothers who have had previous children, about six hours. So don’t worry, you definitely have time!

A lot of women and doctors say that losing the mucous plug, and having cervical dilation are indications that labor is about to begin. In a textbook pregnancy, yes; these are indicators. However, most women aren’t textbook. You could lose your mucous plug and not go into labor until the following week; or lose it, and go into labor within hours. The point is this: if you notice any changes in your cervical mucus and discharge, or find that it’s bloody, report this to your midwife or doctor immediately. As for dilation, your doctor will have to give you that information. Many women stay dilated at three to four centimeters for a few weeks, before actually going into labor. Others won’t dilate at all before “the day” arrives.

What do you think? How Do I Know if I’m in Labor?

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126 comments

  1. Avatar of daisy daisy says:

    I’m 39 weeks tomorrow. Found out Monday I’m dilated to a one. This is my first baby. I’m gettirg very nevouse and scared. I keep having contractions but they are not rythmatic. :(

  2. Avatar of jesster131 jesster131 says:

    My water broke at home at 37 weeks. No contractions before that. I worked the day before that. I was supposed to work that day but told my boss I was done till after my son was born. I was just getting too tired. I went to the hospital after my water broke. 18 1/2 hours later we did a semi urgent c-section. Stubborn baby didn’t want to come out.

  3. Avatar of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

    Good to know. I didn’t experience all of these because I delivered via scheduled CS.

  4. Avatar of LIZ says:

    it was funny because my water broke and i didnt feel it, i thought that i was doing pee, (im a first time mom :) )

  5. Avatar of Dustin Dustin says:

    well my wife is 32 weeks and 3 days shes getting scared she might have problems with the birth shes having really hard presher in her back she hardly sleeps because the baby wont sleep without my hand on her tummy but i sleep in the day most of the time and am active at night the babys heads down and shes constently trying to push out my wifes scared so i started to do some research and i found this site can anyone help me with what to do

    • Avatar of Sara McTigueEditor Sara McTigue says:

      If you’re nervous about things, your best bet is to call the doctor. It can be normal to have pressure and back pain in later pregnancy, but if something doesn’t feel right the doctor can check things out. Best wishes to you!

  6. Avatar of sylvia sylvia says:

    Now that I am getting closer to labor, I start to feel nervous since I am FTM!!! Hopefully my husband is home when my labor start!!!

  7. Avatar of Erica Erica says:

    I’m currently pregnant and I’m really scared my water isn’t going to break or i’m going to be in an enviorment where I won’t notice and something bad will happen.

  8. Avatar of Angela Angela says:

    With my first daughter I started having contractions around midnight on Monday, had an OB/GYN appointment Tuesday morning with NO progress and the doctors said, we’ll see you back in the few hours probably. I went to the hospital a few hours later because the contractions were getting really bad and I was sent home. The pain sucked and I cried off and on the next few hours. I finally went back in Tuesday night around midnight and I was kept because I was 4 1/2 cm dilated. I didn’t have my daughter until 9:36am Wednesday morning. I’m 30 weeks pregnant with my second and dreading labor. I hope I don’t have another experience like my first.

  9. Avatar of Mary Mary says:

    Today I am 35 weeks and 4 days. I’m so excited, but sometimes if I sit down and. Actually start thinking about it I get nervous.

  10. Avatar of kasi kasi says:

    I will be 30 weeks on sunday. Can’t wait for our little one to get here. Can’t wait to have our little one here. Been having BH contractions for a while not sure I am ready for the real thing.

  11. Avatar of Daniela Daniela says:

    I’m no 29 weeks so have definitely started thinking about how its going to be when I go into labor and if I will know the signs. This article definitely helped a little.

  12. Avatar of uyanga uyanga says:

    wow and i bit no one like constractions when thre contraction starts

  13. Avatar of Janette Janette says:

    This is my second pregnancy and I am 34 weeks. My first one was 13 years ago (lol big gap I know). I forgotten what the difference between Braxton hicks and real labor pain feels like. With my first, I didn’t feel any contractions up until my last hours of delivery and the epidural not working. The only reason I rushed to the ER for my first was because i had extreme back pain. I am so scared the labor pains will be like my first but it will be worth it when my baby comes out.

  14. I am 28 weeks and I started having a lot of pressure in my lower back plus a little pain I am also very exhausted and can barely function. Im just concerned about the amount of pressure I am feeling in my lower back :( I guess I should call the midwifes

  15. Avatar of Teresa Teresa says:

    I would love for my water to break in a public place!! Or even at work!!

  16. Avatar of Elizabeth Elizabeth says:

    This was a very helpful article. Even though I am only 23 weeks pregnant, it is still good to know these things.

  17. Avatar of victoria victoria says:

    I’m so glad that this article has reassured me that I will know when I am in labor and be able to get to the hospital in time. That has been one of my biggest fear especially as a first time mom to be. Now I only have to worry about being alone. I hope my husband is with me when it happens. I don’t know how I’d do it by myself.

  18. Avatar of Guerita<3 Guerita<3 says:

    So it is.normal to not feel when your water breaks because i didn’t… Going into labor is.something very frightening but once you see your lil angel you forget about the pain.. ;)

  19. Avatar of nichole nichole says:

    im on my second time around, and im nervous, but not really scared about going into labor. altho i am worried that ill go to sleep, and something will happen while im sleeping, and i wont get to the hosp when i should have. but i guess thats a common fear lol

  20. Avatar of Diana Diana says:

    WOW, at least 9 hrs labor….. I hope I will do well with my first baby…

  21. Avatar of ana says:

    omg im 30 weeks and m really scared my little girl is very active mostly when her dads around and what iim mainly scared of is going to labor.. bymyself

  22. i hate that people are trying to rush me into labor more than I am. I am 37 weeks like give me a break im due in Aug he will come when he’s ready. Stop being so annoying , you can’t rush labor.

  23. Avatar of tybutterfly tybutterfly says:

    Hoping it all happens without too much drama!! haha!! I would hate to be in the middle of a store and have my water break! “Clean up on aisle 4!”

  24. I had to get induced because I had gone over my due date so I didn’t get to feel my water break out of the blue.

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