False alarm or the real deal? Four signs you’re going into labor

April 19, 2012 12:00 AM by

During a pregnancy, many women worry about where and when they'll go into labor. Will it be in the car on the way home from work two weeks before your due date? In the shower one morning a week after? In a humiliatingly public place? Regardless, it's a good idea to brush up on the telltale signs of labor, as many women experience false alarms during the last few weeks of the third trimester. Here are four worth noting.

1. Your water breaks. This rupturing of membranes typically occurs somewhere between several hours before labor starts and anytime throughout it. Luckily, most women experience this after already timing regular contractions, so you're not likely to notice a gushing or trickling of fluid randomly without other symptoms.

2. You have regular contractions. This trips many moms up, as "practice contractions," a.k.a. Braxton Hicks, can occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy. However, you can tell the difference between false and real contractions based on how frequent they are and how they feel. Regular contractions won't subside if you move or eat and they typically grow more intense over time.

3. You experience discharge, also known as the "bloody show." This is the passing of the mucus plug that has kept your cervix closed to protect your baby from infection. It's usually released when your cervix begins to dilate, which can happen several days before labor or when labor officially begins. Either way, you'll know delivery won't be that far away!

4. You can feel your baby dropping lower in your abdomen. This process is called "lightening" and it usually occurs from a few weeks to a few hours before labor starts. You may feel pelvic or lower back pain as a result.

Bottom line? If you feel you're going into labor, give your OBGYN office a call and let your doctor know what's going on. You don't want to make an unnecessary trip to the hospital – but you also want to be there if you're baby's about to make his or her long-awaited entrance into the world!

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