False labor vs. the real deal
If you’re a first-time mother, childbirth can often feel like one big question mark. There’s no telling when you’ll go into labor, how you’ll manage the discomfort, or if you’ll require any interventions along the way. Even the simplest situations, such as determining whether your water has broken, can be anything but black and white.
For many women, it can even be tough to know whether they’re truly in labor. To separate labor facts from fiction – and help you tell the difference between what’s known as practice contractions (Braxton Hicks) and the real thing, keep these telltale signs in mind:
You’re not in labor if…
Your contractions are coming in all over the place. If you feel waves of discomfort first at 5 minutes, then 10, then 15, it’s likely you’re not in labor yet. These could be Braxton Hicks contractions, which can begin in the third trimester.
As time progresses, your contractions don’t get stronger. Many moms-to-be tell us that their experiences with Braxton Hicks were anything but easy. But a good indicator of true labor is that your contractions will get stronger, longer, and closer together as time wears on.
You can walk it off. While it’s true that movement and position matter when it comes to easing pain during labor, if you can put a stop to your contractions altogether just by laying down, they’re most likely not contractions at all. Many women find relief from Braxton Hicks by laying down on their left sides. You may also want to try submerging your belly in a bath. However, if you believe your water may have broken, do not attempt a shower or bath before running it by your health care provider, as this may up your chances of infection.
You may be in labor if…
Your contractions have a schedule of their own. Before your due date, you and your partner should make a plan for when labor begins. Have him be in charge of the timer and keep record of when each contraction rolls in. If your contractions show a regular pattern, every five minutes or under, you’re in true labor.
Have your partner keep an eye on that clock. If your contractions are picking up steam, becoming longer, stronger, and closer together, you can consider yourself in true labor.
Along with your contractions, you experience bloody show. You’ll notice a blood-tinged mucus in your underwear.
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines and that every woman’s labor may progress differently. If at any time you believe you’re in labor, we urge you to get in touch with your doctor or midwife right away for direction and next steps.