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How to Tell When Labor Begins

What happens when labor begins?

As you begin to labor, your cervix will open or dilate. Your uterus, which contain muscles, will contact at regular intervals. This will cause your abdomen to become hard. Between contractions it will soften as your uterus relaxes.

Feeling as if the baby has dropped lower is a sign that labor is approaching in anywhere from a few weeks to a few hours. This movement, called lightening, is when the baby’s head has settled deep into your pelvis.

An increase in vaginal discharge (clear, pink or slightly bloody) is another sign that labor is approaching. During your pregnancy a thick mucus plug accumulated at the cervix. When the cervix begins to dilate, the plug is pushed into the vagina. This is called show and can happen several days before labor or at the onset of labor.

What is false labor?

False labor is when your uterus contracts off and on before “true” labor beings. These irregular contractions during false labor are referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions. They are normal, but often times can be painful and are noticed more at the end of the day.

How to tell the difference between true labor and false labor?

One way to tell the difference between true labor and false labor is by the timing of your contractions. True labor contractions come at regular intervals and get closer together as time goes on. Each of these contractions lasts about 30 to 70 seconds. False labor contractions are irregular and do not get closer together.

Another way to determine true labor versus false labor is by moving around. In true labor, contractions will continue even if you move around or change position. In false labor, the contractions may stop when you walk, rest or change position.

The strength of your contractions can also differentiate between the two. True labor contractions steadily increase in strength. False labor contractions are usually weak and do not get much stronger or they may start strong and get weaker.

Finally, note the pain of your contractions when trying to decide if it is true labor or not. True labor pain usually starts in the back and moves to the front – while false labor is usually only felt in the front.

If you have any questions about true versus false labor or contractions, do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider at Greenville Women’s Clinic. We are here for you through every step of your pregnancy. The more you know about labor, the more prepared you will feel when the big day comes.