As an expecting parent, it’s important to know how to tell when you are in labor. Labor can start suddenly, or it may be a gradual process that lasts for hours or even days. In this blog post, we will go over the signs of labor, how to recognize them, and what to do when you experience them.
Contractions are the most obvious sign of labor. They are usually described as feeling like strong menstrual cramps, and they come and go in a regular pattern. You’ll know you’re in labor when your contractions become more frequent, longer, and stronger. They may start out mild and gradually become more intense, or they may come on suddenly and be very strong from the start. Generally, contractions that are five minutes apart or less for an hour or longer are a sign that you’re in labor.
- Cervical Changes
Another sign that you may be in labor is cervical changes. As your body prepares for labor, your cervix will begin to thin out and open up, allowing your baby to move down the birth canal. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you if your cervix has started to dilate and efface (thin out). They may check your cervix during a prenatal appointment, or you may notice changes yourself if you experience a bloody show or lose your mucus plug.
- Water Breaking
Breaking of your water can also be an indication of how to tell if you are in labor. This can happen as a gush or a trickle of fluid from your vagina. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb. Once your water breaks, labor usually starts within a few hours. However, your water can break well before you start to have contractions, and you may consider contacting your healthcare provider if a lot of time has passed without contractions.
- Back Pain or Pressure
Back pain or pressure can be a sign that you’re in labor. As your baby moves down the birth canal, you may feel intense pressure in your lower back. This can be especially true if your baby is in the posterior position (facing your belly button instead of your back). Back labor can be very uncomfortable, but there are positions and techniques that can help alleviate the pain.
- Nausea and Diarrhea
In the early stages of labor, some women experience nausea and diarrhea. This can be due to hormonal changes or the body’s natural response to labor. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to stay hydrated and rest when you can.
- Increased Vaginal Discharge
As you approach labor, you may notice an increase in vaginal discharge. This is due to the hormonal changes in your body as it prepares for birth. The discharge may be thicker and have a pink or brown tint, indicating that your cervix is starting to dilate and efface.
What to Do When You Think You’re in Labor
If you experience any of these signs for how to tell if you are in labor, it’s important to remain in contact with your healthcare provider and your doula. They will be able to advise you on whether it’s time to go to your birthing location or stay at home for a little longer. In general, you should head to your birthing location (if other than your home) when your contractions are five minutes apart or less, and you’ve been experiencing them for at least an hour. If you plan to birth at home, it is important to remain in contact with your midwife as you notice labor signs. You should also go to the hospital or birth center if your water has been broken for a long time or you experience any bleeding.
In conclusion, recognizing the signs of labor can help you prepare for the birth of your baby. It’s important to pay attention to your body and contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. Remember, every labor is different, so don’t worry if your experience doesn’t match what you’ve read or heard from others. Just trust your instincts and know that you’re in good hands with your healthcare provider.