Prevea Health

How do I know I’m in labor?


Common symptoms of labor include aches in the lower back and increased pelvic pressure and abdominal cramping. The lower abdominal cramping feels similar to menstrual cramps. These symptoms may be preceded or accompanied by the passing of the mucous plug, and it should not alarm you. The mucous plug may be blood-tinged, sticky material, and it is frequently seen in individuals who are experiencing their first pregnancy and labor. If you see bright red bleeding, as heavy as a period, call your provider.

Once labor has begun, you may drink clear fluids but should not eat anything solid. Following the aches in the lower back, pelvic pressure, and lower abdominal cramps, you can expect irregular, short uterine contractions.

These contractions will become regular and more evenly spaced. Gradually they will get closer together and last for longer periods of time. When you should leave for the hospital is dependent upon:
  • How far you live from the hospital
  • The length of previous labors
  • Other factors which would influence the length of your labor such as previous VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) or as directed by your provider.

If you have specific concerns discuss them with your provider. Normally when your contractions are approximately five to six minutes apart and lasting for at least 50 seconds over the course of an hour, you should go to the hospital.

True labor vs. false labor

The hallmark of true labor is consistency. True labor contractions become consistently closer, longer and harder. False labor contractions are inconsistent in length and time between each one. They may not have a definite pattern. If there is any question as to whether you are really in labor or whether you should leave for the hospital, please call your provider at (920) 496-4700 or the hospital where you plan to have your baby.

True Labor

  • Can be irregular in the beginning
  • Changing your activity does not make them go away
  • Get longer, stronger and closer together

Changes in your cervix: our cervix will soften, thin out and begin to open up (dilate).

False Labor

Contractions (Braxton Hicks):
  • Are irregular
  • Do not get closer together
  • Walking does not necessarily make them stronger
  • Changing your activity, i.e. resting, can make them go away

Reasons To Go To The Hospital

True labor symptoms:
  • Ruptured membranes (water breaking)
  • Bleeding (like a period)
  • Decreased fetal movement