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How Do I Know I'm in Labor?

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

Don’t we all wish everything was as neat and quick as TV portrays it? This includes going into labor. If it’s your first child, you may wonder, just what kind of pain or feeling can I expect when my labor starts?

It’s important to realize that every woman’s experience is different. However, there are typical signs that doctors look for to confirm whether or not a patient is in real labor.

Signs of labor as indicated by Mayo Clinic:

1. Effacement – that’s a fancy way of saying that the cervix is softening and thinning. Remember, your doctor is the one that can determine this.

2. Dilation of the cervix – is the cervix opening or dilating? Your doctor measures the opening from zero to 10. Some patients take days to fully dilate while for others, it may take weeks.

3. Mucous plug – do you notice a stringy mucous or a thick discharge? This may be what is called the mucous plug dislodging. The mucous plug blocks the cervical opening and prevents bacteria from entering the uterus. Although this is a strong sign, it may not be a 100 percent guarantee that you’re in labor. Check with your physician.

4. Nesting – even though nesting can occur months before the patient’s due date, it is felt most strongly right before delivery. It is the instinctive, energetic feeling to clean and organize. It is fine to engage in this feeling as long as the patient doesn’t overdo it.

5. Water breaks – ‘water breaking’ is the amniotic fluid leaking or gushing. Sometimes patients aren’t sure if it is their water breaking or just urine. If a patient feels this way, it is better to call the attending physician anyway since the longer the wait (and if it really is the amniotic sac ruptured), the greater risk for developing an infection.

6. Contractions – it is important to learn how to determine whether one is having real contractions since the uterus can tighten and relax during the last few months of pregnancy onward. Ask yourself the following questions: Are my contractions regular (start from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next)? Are the contractions getting closer together?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.