“How Do I Know if I’m in Labor?”

This seems like a no-brainer, right?

You start feeling contractions at 40 weeks and you give birth. Easy peasy.

Well, the signs aren’t always that simple. As you know, there are many burps and toots and that go along with pregnancy so it’s often hard to tell what’s just a random pain, puddle or purdle, and when it’s really show time.

Plus, very few women go into labor on their due date (fewer than 5%) so try not to do what I did and count down the days to your due date figuring that’s when the baby would get here because it rarely happens and you’ll be one grouchy land manatee.

How do you know if you’re in labor though?

 

Passing your mucus plug.

Ah yes, the mucus plug. Once again medical professions have outdone themselves with the most disgusting terminology they could come up with.

Essentially you’ve lost the seal that kept your cervix closed for the past nine months. It may come out as a lump or as increased discharge over a few days. The mucus may be tinted with red or brown, which is referred to as “bloody show”. Yep, bloody show.

I think we should refer to it as a baby cork and womb sealant.

No need to worry because it just means that the lid is off – labor could start in a couple of hours or even a couple of weeks. Just mention it to your medical practitioner when you see them next. Unless there’s blood, like real bright red bleeding, which could indicate issues with your placenta so shuffle off to hospital stat if you spot that.

 

Contractions.

Contraction are a good hint but Braxton Hicks contractions are always lurking to make you feel like a dummy for hitting the “show time” button. Try walking around if you have them though. Braxton Hicks contractions usually fade if you’re up and moving around versus sitting. Contractions also tend to get more intense with walking so that’s a good clue. If they start coming at regular intervals and increase in, you’re probably ready to rock and roll. What you’re waiting for is 1-5-1, which is having contractions that are 1 minute long, every 5 minutes, for 1 hour. If you’re high risk your practitioner will probably want you in sooner.

 

Water breaking.

You know how in movies a woman is always standing at a party while she delivers her “Oh my God, my water just broke” line accompanied by a gush of water? Well, this doesn’t happen to many women. In fact, most women are well into labor before their water breaks.

It is more likely to be a leak rather than a gush although those are sometimes hard to distinguish from sneaky urine and vaginal discharge, which are two other delightful side effects when you’re this pregnant. Easiest way to tell if you’re leaking amniotic fluid is to lie down. The fluid will pool in your vagina and come out when you stand up – pee and discharge won’t do that.

If you find you are leaking, pack yourself up and assume that you’ll be giving birth shortly. Once your water breaks you’ll either go into labor in the next 24 hours or your practitioner will start it for you.

Oh, if the fluid is green or brown call your doctor or midwife right away because that’s a sign that your baby may have pooped in utero and you don’t want the little monkey ingesting that.


If you want to try kick starting your labor you can try some of these tips, but unless you’re coming up on the 42 week mark or have a medical condition that would deem you high risk, most medical professionals suggest you leave it alone and let the little weeble bake as long as they feel necessary.

So stay tuned, my darlin’ and use this time to answer the phone saying “No, the baby isn’t coming yet and I’m charging everyone $5 that asks me that from now on.” By my calculations, you should have roughly $45,675 by the time you give birth.

Hang in there.

Pregnant mama-to-be, you need these tips about signs of being in labor! How to know if you're in labor and about to welcome your beautiful new baby. #pregnancy #birth #newmom

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16 Comments

  • Never felt contractions I felt my son move a few times the day prior to going to the hospital and they scheadule an emergency csection for the following morning

  • I was in denial for several hours about being in labor–it was 2.5 weeks before my due date and my family does NOT do early babies. I just felt…off all day and figured it was just general pregnancy ickiness. Then I started getting waves of “off-ness” which turned into waves of mild crampiness. At that point I pulled out my contraction timing app, to rule out this actually being labor, but the waves kept getting more regular. Even when I called my midwife I was like “So… I’m pretty sure this is a false alarm, but…” When I got to the hospital (where I promptly refused a wheelchair because I kept insisting that I was not %^*%# invalid) I was only dilated 1cm so I was CONVINCED they were going to send me home. Nope, they had me walk laps around the maternity ward for the next hour (good thing they knew what was what, cuz I sure didn’t). I started experiencing legitimately shitty contractions and dilated another 4cm in that hour. Son was born early the next morning.

  • I know this column is meant to be helpful but for the most part none of these things happened to me until I was in active labor. With my first, I had Braxton Hicks but only brought on when the hubby and I were sexually active and his (semen) was actually ejaculated in me. Outside of that when I began going into labor at 37 weeks I was like oh it’s Just Braxton Hicks they’ll send me home, but my back was killing me. Eventually he took me to the hospital and I was 6 cm dialated. I didn’t lose my mucus plug or have my water break until I was in active labor of course my dr had to break my water and when he did my son was delivered within a few minutes. And my second was smooth no pains no BH, just at 39 wks a strange hard pain in my back went to hospital no contractions and I was 7cm dialated. They hooked me and up and he was there in less than 5hrs. Again no water breaking or loss of mucus plug, just mommy intuition. Hope this 3rd delivery is just as smooth.

  • For two out of my three pregnancies, it always started with something similar to what I thought to be horrifically painful diarrhea that I always equate with food poisoning or something like that. It then progresses to contractions and labor.

  • My water broke (gushed) spontaneously at 40+2 after I sneezed. I thought I had peed myself (it was yellow from meconium). It took soaking through several pads and panties for me to accept that my water had broken – I think I was in denial.

  • Ok. I read all the stuff you’re "supposed" to. My contractions were completely irregular. I went from 10 to 4 to 22 back to 4. Then they jumped to 2 mins. And then I went to the hospital. By then my daughter was in distress. I didn’t know but the cord was wrapped around her neck three times. I waited too long and feel horrible. I had an emergency c-section less than 12 hours from that first "pang". Please don’t worry about inconveniencing anyone and being told to go home. It is far better than waiting too long.

  • I love womb sealant. I am going to start calling it that for sure. My water broke at 41 weeks and a day and 2 hours later no contractions.

  • And just to prove how random it all is, this post did not describe my labour at all, lol!

    I had no discernible mucus plug, no Braxton Hicks, I went into labour mere hours before my due date (Kidlet was born on the due date), and my water broke 7 hours before labour started.

  • My midwife asked me to text her a picture. It’s more information when deciding to go to the hospital (or have the midwife come to your house). One thing that isn’t mentioned is the difference between labour starting and active labour. My first baby was interventions galore so I missed that part, but with my second baby I noticed a marked difference between the ‘I can still talk while having them’ contractions, and the ‘this is starting to really really hurt so leave me the fark alone’ type contractions. I did notice though that the midwives started taking me a bit more seriously when that happened 🙂

  • Alternatively, you can just go straight into knock-you-on-your-butt labor: I had no Braxton Hicks and I’m sure the mucous plug came out at some point, but it certainly wasn’t noticeable. And the doc broke my water when I got to 10 cm. Less than eight hours after my first contraction. Oh yeah, and my contractions did not get to five minutes apart until I was pushing. So as with everything in pregnancy (and life?) your experience may vary.

    Here’s my advice to you, if all of the great advice for dealing with early or possible labor (take a nap, take a bath, go for a walk) sounds like the ravings of a mad person, get thee to your preferred caregiver!

  • Please add that there is no need to take a picture of your mucous plug and text it to your doctor. PLEASE just mention it at the next visit. (Sadly this happens to me , WAY too often)

  • This is quite foul but there is another way to tell if it’s your waters that have broken. Smell the discharge / fluid. I know, gross. But, your amniotic fluid smells very distinctively like semen, it’s quite unmistakable.

  • I think mucous "plug" is the misleading part! And it’s always describe as being something hard that can fall out in the toilet. I’d like to point to the "mucous" part of the name – if you have string and strings of mucous coming out of you, that’s probably your "plug" 😉

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