Every mother-to-be is given an estimated due date: the time when the baby inside of her is expected to arrive. Due dates can be helpful, but may also be a source of frustration. While a set due date helps a pregnant woman to plan and prepare, as the day Baby has been determined to make his appearance grows ever-nearer, some women may get just a bit anxious.
Not only is pregnancy uncomfortable, the bigger baby grows, the harder it becomes to do simple tasks like putting on shoes or shaving one's legs. These factors can contribute to an expecting mom's desire to deliver her baby. Due dates are not set in stone. Some babies arrive early, others decide to cook for a bit longer than expected. The closer a woman's due date looms, the more and more she's on the look-out for signs she's in labor.
While every labor and delivery is different, there are some signs and symptoms that have been determined by medical professionals to likely be false labor: a warm-up of sorts for the main event. Other signs have been deemed by experts to be pretty accurate signals that a woman is in real labor, and will meet her baby in the very near future.
It's important to remember that every woman will experience labor in her own unique way. If something doesn't feel right, it's always best to seek medical attention. No one will fault a mom-to-be for getting help if what she thinks is Baby's arrival turns out ot be a false alarm. Read on for 7 signs of false labor, and 7 indicators that real labor is in full-force, and Baby should be arriving shortly.
14 No If: Irregular or Unpredictable Contractions
Many women will experience uterus tightening and contracting abdominal muscles long before their babies are due to arrive. In fact, Braxton Hicks contractions, or warm-up contractions, that get a woman ready for her baby's delivery may begin as early as the second trimester. A woman may not be sure how to tell the difference between these contractions, and real contractions that signal Baby should be arriving shortly.
According to AmericanPregnancy.com, contractions that are not indicative of labor will be "Irregular and unpredictable contractions (for example, intervals between contractions of ten minutes, six minutes, two minutes, eight minutes, etc.)"
Yes, contractions are uncomfortable, annoying and often painful, even when actual labor hasn't begun. If there is no rhyme or reason to when contractions start and stop, or if they come and go in no set pattern, it's likely the body is getting ready for Baby's arrival, but isn't experiencing true labor just yet.
13 Yes If: Strong, Frequent Contractions
A woman may think she's in labor when experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, only to be shocked with how intense contractions get when true labor is experienced. If contractions are so strong it's difficult to talk or breath through them, it's likely a woman is experiencing true labor.
Contractions will also become more frequent as true labor progresses. If contractions are nearing three minutes apart, it's probably time to head to the location that has been previously determined for Baby's arrival.
Labor is considered active when contractions last between 45 and 60 seconds and are only three to four minutes apart. At this point in the proceedings, Baby may be ready to arrive at any time. Some women spend many hours in the Active Labor Phase before it's time to push. Others may be ready to push within 30 to 45 minutes of the Active Labor Phase beginning, especially if the water has already broken.
12 No If: Slow Progression Of Labor
As mentioned above, Braxton Hicks contractions may be experienced for an extended period of time before Baby actually arrives. A woman may be unsure how exactly to determine whether or not these sensations are a sign that she should prepare to deliver her baby in the near future, or if she's still got awhile to wait.
Along with contractions that come and go without any established pattern, if labor doesn't seem to be progressing in any way, chances are, a woman is experiencing a false alarm. If contractions don't get closer together and stronger with time, it's likely they will eventually drop off completely.
As frustrating as this may be, women will be saved from a lot of disappointment if they refrain from thinking that every little twinge is a sign that Baby is on the way. Once labor contractions do begin, it could be days before labor progresses to the point that Baby is ready to arrive. Of course some labors progress much more quickly than others. Women should use their best judgement, but assume if labor doesn't seem to be progressing, chances are it isn't quite time for baby to arrive.
11 Yes If: Increasing Discomfort With Contractions
If every contraction is a bit more painful than the last, Baby is most likely on the way sooner rather than later. Braxton Hicks contractions can be uncomfortable, but usually remain at about the same intensity. When true labor is in full-force, the pain, pressure and intensity will often increase a fairly rapid pace.
If a woman finds that her contractions are making it harder and harder to speak or breath, it's most likely go-time. Labor pain can be managed in a variety of different ways. Getting in a birthing tub, putting pressure on the lower back, bouncing on a birthing ball or getting pain medication are all options to help women deal with the pain and discomfort of labor contractions.
Labor may progress quickly once contractions increase in intensity and frequency. If it's getting more and more difficult to deal with the discomfort of contractions, a woman can be pretty sure that her Baby will soon be in her arms.
10 No If: Contractions Are Generalized Abdominal Tightening
Contractions that are felt as nothing more than a generalized abdominal tightening are usually not a sign of labor. Instead, the uterus is contracting to prepare itself for the main event. In true labor, contractions may extend into the upper stomach and the lower back.
If the abdomen is contracting, but little to no pain is experienced, and the contractions don't spread to any other parts of the body, false labor is most likely what is taking place.
There are instances in true labor where a woman won't feel much pain or discomfort at first. Once again, if the contractions continue to get stronger and closer together, and are relatively consistent, it's likely a woman is in labor. Otherwise, throw on a movie or snuggle up with a good book. Unfortunately, this may be the best way to distract oneself from the discomfort of false labor. Hang in there! It won't be long now.
9 Yes If: Start Experiencing Back Pain
A backache, even one that seems to come and go, may be a sign of true labor. Depending on how Baby is positioned, a woman may experience back labor. This is a highly painful type of labor that affects many women. Back labor may also be affected by the position a mother is in while in active labor.
There are many options women experiencing back labor have to help them deal with the pain associated with this type of labor. Counter pressure, a birthing ball, getting on hands and knees or getting into a tub may all be ways a woman with back pain during labor may find relief. Of course, an epidural is another form of pain management many women opt to receive.
According to VeryWell.com, "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been shown to be an effective way to deal with back pain during labor. This non-medicinal form of pain relief should be started early in labor for the best effects. Small electrical pulses help disrupt the sensation of pain."
8 No If: Contractions Slow Down Or Stop
If contractions seem consistent, but slow down or stop when a woman lies down or changes the position of her body, it's likely she is experiencing false labor. If contractions are strong and consistent, but completely stop once a woman lies on one side or sits a certain way, it's not likely true labor has started.
If a woman isn't sure whether or not her contractions are signaling labor, changing position or lying down and watching how this effects the contractions is a good rule of thumb before rushing to the hospital or birthing center, or calling a midwife or doctor.
A woman may experience contractions pretty consistently all day long, then find they go away when she lies down to sleep at night. As frustrating as this may be, remember that even false labor is a sign that the body is preparing for the main event. Baby may not arrive today, but it won't be much longer.
7 Yes If: You Start Feeling Very Tired
Many women are completely exhausted by the time the end of their pregnancy draws near. During the third trimester, it may be nearly impossible to get a good night's rest due to leg cramps, Braxton Hicks contractions and the inability to find a comfortable position to sleep in. In addition, the body may be worn down from carrying around extra weight and sharing nutrients with Baby.
Sometimes, at the beginning of labor, a woman will experience extreme fatigue and sleep deeply. She may also have slight flu-like symptoms and just feel a bit "off." On the flip side, some ladies on the verge of giving birth get a crazy burst of energy known as "nesting." They may clean and organize every corner of every room in preparation for Baby's arrival.
Fatigue that is more pronounced than normal is often a sign that true labor is right around the corner, and it won't be long until Baby's cries are the reason mom isn't getting any shut-eye.
6 No If: There's No Dilation
If a mom-to-be is experiencing frequent, strong contractions, and goes in to see if the time has come for her baby to arrive, one of the first things a medical professional will do is check to see how far she is dilated.
If a woman is dilated between zero and 3 centimeters, she's in the Early Labor Phase, and Baby most likely won't be making an appearance in the near future. Dilation between 3 centimeters and 7 centimeters is considered the Active Labor Phase, while dilation between 7 and 10 centimeters is considered the Transition Phase.
Some women dilate slightly weeks before their babies arrive. Others dilate quickly from zero to 10 centimeters. Every woman and every body is different. There are some cases in which a woman is experiencing extremely strong contractions, but isn't dilating. A foley bulb catheter is a possible induction technique that may help labor progress. This tool is inserted into the cervix and slowly expands, assisting a woman in the dilation process, and often jump-starting Active Labor.
5 Yes If: Stools Are Loose
Yep, ladies, you read that correctly. When it's nearly time for Baby to arrive, the body prepares itself in every way possible. This may include some time spent in the bathroom before or at the beginning of the Active Labor Phase.
Ever heard stories about the olden days when women were given an enema in preparation for a baby's delivery? This is no longer common practice, and many women fear they won't be able to keep things in while pushing baby out. As a matter of fact, the body knows what it's doing, and often gives a woman the kindness of cleaning her out before it's time for her to push.
VeryWell.com states, "Loose stools are caused by the release of prostaglandins in early (labor), which causes cervical effacement, softening, etc. Prostaglandins also can cause soft stools or diarrhea." Experiencing a cleansing of sorts in the ladies room? Labor may be days, or merely hours, away from beginning.
4 No If: There's No Evidence Of Blood
Many times, when Baby is on his way, Mom will see what is known as a bloody show, a small bit of blood that may show up before or after the mucus plug is released. Bloody show is a sign that the cervix is ripening and preparing for delivery.
Some women never see their mucus plug, or any signs of a bloody show. Others lose their mucus plug days before they go into labor. Bloody show on its own doesn't mean labor is imminent, but when it is combined with other signs of labor, Baby will most likely be arriving shortly.
Any time a woman sees blood during pregnancy, it's scary. She may fear something is wrong when she sees red in the toilet or in her underwear. A slight bit of blood us usually nothing to worry about if a baby's due date is near. If no mucus plug or bloody show are anywhere in sight, it's likely not quite time for Baby to arrive.
3 Yes If: It's A Bloody Show
Bloody show often shows up with or soon after a woman passes her mucus plug. The mucus plug is close to the consistency of the mucus found in the nose, although usually a little lighter in color. It is, at times, streaked with pink and followed by a slight amount of blood.
It is important to remember that vaginal exams close to delivery or sexual intercourse may also cause slight bleeding. A woman may mistake this for her bloody show, when she's still weeks away from actually going into labor.
Passing a mucus plug or seeing a bloody show usually means Baby will be on the way shortly, but don't be discouraged if it's still a few days or longer before he arrives. Some women miss this sign altogether. If bleeding becomes bright red, and is more than slight spotting, seek medical attention right away, as this may be the sign of a serious complication.
2 No If: The Membranes Haven't Ruptured
One obvious and dramatic sign that a pregnant woman is close to the time of delivery is the rupture of membranes, more commonly known as the water breaking. Many movies and television shows depict the breaking of he water as a common part of the delivery process.
In fact, only about 10 percent of pregnant women experience the dramatic moment of having their water break before their labor begins, according to KidsHealth.org. Sure, a gush of water is a sure sign it won't be long until Baby arrives, but some women may not go into labor right after this epic event.
In most cases, the water is broken in the hospital by a medical professional, or happens after a woman is in the throes of intense labor. If the membranes haven't ruptured, it doesn't mean labor isn't real, but water everywhere is one sign of true labor that won't usually be present in cases where labor is false.
1 Yes If: Membranes Have Ruptured!
Sometimes, life is just like the movies. An expecting mother may get the thrill of her water breaking in a big gush, dramatically splashing onto the pavement while she runs errands, or soaking her boss's shoes as she gives him her take on the new office Ficus plant. Exhilarating!
Rupture of membranes, or the water breaking, is a pretty obvious sign that it won't be long until Baby enters the world. Most doctors will induce a woman if she hasn't gone into labor on her own within 48 hours of her water breaking, due to the risk of infection and possible complications with delivery. The water breaking isn't always experienced as a gush. It may be a light trickle that doesn't quit. If either of these sensations are experienced, it's a good idea to get checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
Eventually, all expecting women will deliver their babies. Whether labor comes on quickly and suddenly, or seems to last forever, the experience will be completely worth it once Baby is in the world and snuggled safely in his mother's arms.