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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142 comments

  1. Avatar of Claudia Claudia says:

    I am so worried about my this baby with my first i was a stay at home mom so I had time to listen to my body and had a lot of support so i had no worries. This time me and my husband are more on our own and with a child in school and full schedules I’m terrified that i will end up not making it to the hospital.

  2. Avatar of Karina Karina says:

    I’m worried as crap. Been feeling really sick and blah lately. Back always aching now, belly hurts, sharp pains and achy pains. I think I lost my mucus plug or some at least. And the pelvic pain is just getting worse and worse. Sharp pains down my crotch. Tmi but I’m only 31 weeks, almost 32. I’m freaking out but I’m not trying to run to the hospital for everything

  3. Avatar of ann ann says:

    I have 2 children (boys) and its been 15yrs., now i’m having a girl and i hope i will be able to tell when i am ready. With my two boys, i couldn’t tell. My first was born at home, with my second, my doctor had to tell me to go to the hospital, i delivered that very night!

  4. Avatar of Corea W. Corea W. says:

    Great article to read to give you an idea of the difference between false & real labor contractions!

  5. Avatar of Stephanie Stephanie says:

    Every time is different…

  6. Avatar of Chelsea Chelsea says:

    I seriously wish I could be worried about this right now! But… I’m not even pregnant! :(
    Any advise??

    • Avatar of Sierra Lyn Sierra Lyn says:

      If your stressing about conceiving its less likely to happen. My fiance and i tried for over a year to get pregnant. Never use protection, & had sex everyday almost, if not mulitple times a day. But when we stopped trying & i gave up hope, boom it happened. Now i am 9 months pregnant with a little girl. They say it don’t always work but it worked for me. Just an idea to try & help you conceive. Goodluck to you!!(:

  7. Avatar of maria maria says:

    I am super nervous I have a 4 year old girl already but the day she was born I was dilated 3 centimeters and I was sent to the hospital after my office visit I did not experience any contractions until after the nurse in the hospital broke my water. I feel like a FTM since It’s been a couple years and I didn’t really have to rush anywhere the first time!

  8. Avatar of Melissa Melissa says:

    My biggest fear is that no one would be around when my water brakes or I start to have contractions. I don’t like being alone.

  9. Avatar of sweety sweety says:

    Ya actually I ddnt knew all the above things but fm 2-3days I am facing flow,nw I am at 33wks and 4 days,I had visited my gyn n she told to rest and if it continues excessly then she will hospitalised me.and right now she says its heavy infection.i hope this not really the symptom for pre delivery.

  10. Avatar of corind corind says:

    31 weeks and 2 days pregnant. kinda nervous been feeling some pelvic pressure since yesterday and what I am pretty sure are just Braxton hicks contractions, since they haven’t been getting worse but are fairly regular at a few hours apart, all week. freaking out a little bit

  11. Avatar of Denise Denise says:

    I am already getting nervous, I’ve heard so many different explanations of what labor feels like. My doctor told me its like menstrual cramps, but I’ve only got back cramps during my periods, and I have already felt some of those during the pregnancy.

  12. 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. :(

  13. 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.

  14. Avatar of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

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

  15. 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 :) )

    • Avatar of sweety sweety says:

      Ya firstly even I thought the same but theres still time so I dont know about myself. I was ashamed to tell this to my mother and mother in law,then my husband told me tell this.

  16. 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 McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC 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!

  17. 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!!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. Avatar of uyanga uyanga says:

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

  24. 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.

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