It’s normal to count down the days until giving birth, but you also need to be able to determine whether or not you are actually in labor. This can be difficult for any pregnant woman to discern, and it may be even more complicated if this is your first baby. After all, contractions of any type are definitely going to get your attention, but it is important to read through this list before heading to the hospital prematurely.
Five Signs of False Labor
1. Your Cervix Isn’t Dilating
If your body is truly preparing to give birth, your cervix will dilate to 3 cm during the first stage of labor. In false labor, no cervix dilation will occur. Therefore, when in doubt, it is always easy for a healthcare professional or midwife to make a determination based on this one factor.
2. Your Contractions Are in Your Lower Abdomen
Some people erroneously believe that women do not experience true contractions during false labor. Although this is not actually true, the contractions that you have will be different from those that accompany the process of giving birth.
If you feel contractions primarily in your lower abdomen instead of having them start off in your lower back, the odds are high that you are in false labor.
3. Your Contractions Are Unpredictable
With real labor, your body goes through a series of contractions that become increasingly intense and more frequent. For example, you might have contractions that are 10 minutes apart at first, but this time frame will begin to dwindle as you get closer to needing medical attention.
With false labor, it is common to have contractions that do not come within any set time period. Additionally, their severity is likely to vary greatly, and undertaking some light physical activity may cause them to stop altogether.
4. Giving Birth Requires Your Water to Break
You can be in the first stage of real labor for a while before your water breaks, but you should also experience other signs of true labor by this point. On the contrary, false labor will be accompanied by contractions, but your water will not break.
In other words, if your water has not yet broken and your contractions are irregular, you are probably not actually in labor.
5. You Haven’t Noticed Any Bloody Show
The name bloody show may not seem very pleasant, but it describes the natural process that your body goes through when it is preparing to give birth. Bloody show is a phrase that encompasses the brown or pink tinged mucus discharge that usually happens around the 39 week mark. This stringy indicator of your cervix beginning to open up is the first thing that many women notice before going into real labor.
Five Signs of True Labor
1. Your Contractions Are Getting Stronger
Real labor can include some inconsistent contractions in the beginning, but they will become more predictable as you progress through the first stage of giving birth. Timing your contractions is one of the easiest ways to know for certain that it is time to go to the hospital or call your midwife.
Keep in mind that there is no point in seeking medical attention until you have exited the first stage of labor and your cervix has become dilated to more than 3 cm.
2. Your Contractions Feel Like Cramps
True labor contractions often feel like the onset of menstrual cramps. This means that you will feel them in your lower back, and they will eventually work their way into your abdomen. Some women may not feel the contractions very strongly in the lower section of their abdomen until they start to get closer together.
3. You Pass the Mucus Plug
The previously mentioned bloody show is part of passing the mucus plug, and this must happen before you can enter true labor. Keep in mind that this process can happen anywhere from a few hours until several days before labor actually begins. Either way, without the mucus plug being passed, you are not actually going into labor.
4. Your Water Breaks
Your water will break at some point during the first phase of true labor. However, it is possible for women to experience something similar to their water breaking without having any contractions. If this happens, be sure to talk to your doctor right away. As long as you are feeling contractions and your water has broken, it is time to prepare yourself to soon meet your newborn daughter or son.
5. Your Cervix is Dilating
As your body prepares to give birth, your cervix will go through the effacement process. This entails becoming dilated, softer and thinner so that you are able to safely deliver your baby. Passing the mucus plug is the beginning of your cervix’s eventual dilation to 10 cm.
As you can see, there are some similarities between false and true labor. However, a little knowledge will make it clear what is actually happening to your body.
Now that you know how to quickly figure out if you are in false labor or experiencing the real deal, it is a good idea to take some time to treat yourself before your newborn baby arrives.
Featured photo credit: Meagan, via flickr via flic.kr