When you go into labor, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. However, especially for first-time mothers, it can be confusing or stressful to feel uninformed about what exactly labor feels like. Dr. Michelle Santoyo explains three key things patients should look for that indicate labor are contractions, loss of fluid, and bleeding. Here are a few signs of both true labor and false labor.
Labor is simply the process of childbirth, when your baby will leave the uterus. Labor is defined as beginning with regular contractions that cause the cervix to change and dilate, or open. Especially as you get close to your due date, it’s important to understand the signs of labor so that you’re prepared to go to the hospital and contact your health care provider.
Contractions are the muscles of the uterus repeatedly tightening and relaxing, like a fist squeezing and resting. This works to open the cervix and push the baby out of the uterus. During labor, contractions will become increasingly painful and regular, and patients should time the frequency and duration of their contractions. During labor, contractions are typically 3-5 minutes apart with each contraction lasting one minute.
Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor, commonly occur in the last several weeks of the pregnancy. They serve to help soften the cervix in preparation for birth. Unlike true labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions will remain irregular with no set pattern, and are usually mild and may or may not be painful at all. Typically, they feel crampy in nature or simply as a tightening sensation in your abdomen. During true labor, contractions are painful, in a set pattern and regular, and will likely prevent your ability to walk or talk. Braxton-Hicks contractions are more likely at the end of the day or after physical activity, though they often stop if you walk or change position, unlike true labor contractions.
There are several other signs of labor that patients should be aware of. Dr. Michelle Santoyo explains that patients should look for a “gush of fluid,” also known as the water breaking, and bleeding. A Ruptured membrane is when the amniotic fluid that the baby grows in breaks.This may cause a large flow of water or just a small trickle of fluid. During labor, it’s also common for patients to feel pain throughout their abdomen or lower back.
Your OBGYN will likely check for other signs of labor, including your baby moving lower into your pelvis and whether your cervix is effaced (thin) or dilating (opening).
Labor can be expected anywhere between 37 and 40+ weeks of your pregnancy. Your OBGYN should inform you of what signs to look for before you reach 37 weeks.
However, preterm labor is possible. Preterm labor is any true labor which begins before 37 weeks. There are some risk factors for preterm labor, including pregnancy of multiples, a previous preterm delivery, and problems with the cervix or uterus. You may also be at higher risk for a preterm delivery if you have a family history of premature birth or you were underweight or overweight before pregnancy.
If you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant and require care, schedule an appointment with an OBGYN at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates in New York City. Call our office at (212) 235-1335 or contact us online.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!