Signs of [True] Labor

Pregnant woman going into Labor

You’ve carried your baby for months. Your body has changed to accommodate the growing fetus, undoubtedly with some associated discomfort. As your due date approaches, the discomfort becomes more intense. How do you know what are “growing pains” in preparation for the birth and what are signs of labor? While every woman will have her own unique experience, here are some guidelines to help you gauge.

Words to Know

First, there are a couple terms you’ll hear during your last couple months of pregnancy that will be helpful during labor.

  • Effacement: The process of the cervix becoming thinner in preparation for the birth. Your provider will report your percentage of effacement (25%, 50%, etc.) The process of effacement makes dilation easier.
  • Dilation: The process of the cervix opening, measured in centimeters. “Fully dilated” means your cervix is 10 cm and you’re ready to have your baby!

Braxton Hicks

False labor, also called Braxton Hicks, consists of random tightening of the abdomen. These contractions are highly irregular in length and intensity, usually around 30 seconds of discomfort in the lower abdomen and back. Braxton Hicks contractions typically slow down or stop if you change position or activity, or drink some water.

Many women believe losing their mucus plug is a sign of labor. The mucus plug, which prevents bacteria from entering the uterus, will be expelled as clear or slightly pink stringy mucus before labor as your body prepares for birth. However, true labor could still be weeks away while the cervix dilates.

Signs of [True] Labor

  • Membranes rupture and your water breaks with a gush or consistent leakage
  • Steady contractions that increase in frequency, severity, and length
  • Typically pain that starts high in your abdomen or back and radiates throughout the abdomen

When to Call

Your healthcare provider can ease your fears and advise when you should head to the hospital. Call your provider immediately if you have bright red vaginal bleeding, you notice changes in your baby’s level of activity, your water has broken, or you’re having steady contractions every five minutes or so. To discuss any concerns or questions you may have about labor and delivery options, please contact your Capital Women’s Care provider.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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