You’ve waited throughout your entire pregnancy for labor to begin. Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, you’re bound to have some apprehension and anticipation for the big event. This is completely normal and expected. Delivery is the peak of pregnancy.
But whether or not you’ve had other children before may influence the rate at which labor progresses once it begins. Dr. Alan Patterson of Patterson OBGYN explains more about how to tell when labor is starting and the other factors that might matter along the way.
Most women are designed to begin labor after 37 weeks of pregnancy when they are considered full-term. But sometimes, it doesn’t always work out that way.
You might have some of the following symptoms if you’re in preterm labor:
- More vaginal discharge than usual
- Any change to the color of your vaginal discharge, especially if it’s bloody
- Having contractions, which may feel like abdominal pain, especially if they come at regular intervals
- Lower back pain, especially if you didn’t previously feel this symptom
- Your water breaking
If you have any of these symptoms or more than one of them it is important that you notify your health care provider as soon as possible, because many times premature labor can be stopped with early intervention.
Of course, it’s also very common – especially with first babies – to have false labor. We’ll explain more in the next section.
False, or prodromal, labor is not necessarily what you think it is. There’s a common feeling of disappointment among many women, who go to the hospital, only to be told that it’s “only” false labor. False labor actually serves an important function: to help your body to prepare for the actual work ahead.
Some of the signs and symptoms of false labor are difficult to distinguish from the real thing. Here are some signs:
- Contractions that occur at irregular intervals
- These contractions are non-productive, which means that they won’t lead to thinning of the cervix which is called effacement or dilatation of the cervix.
- False Labor may or may not be painful, as compared to Braxton-Hicks contractions which usually are not painful.
- Braxton-Hicks contractions can begin as early as in the second trimester, while prodromal labor occurs closer to the end of pregnancy
There’s no reason to feel embarrassed if it turns out to be false labor. It’s always better to check and get evaluated by a professional.
Prodromal or false labor can last for a few days or a few weeks or sometimes longer than that. Resting and staying off of your feet and drinking enough liquids so your urine is clear can often make false labor contractions go away. Most women need to drink more liquids than what they think they need.
The symptoms of real labor
The symptoms of real labor are usually pretty unmistakable. Some of the common symptoms of the beginning of labor include the following:
- Lightening (when your baby drops into a much lower position)
- Breaking your water, once this happens, call your health care provider immediately, because you may go into labor by yourself after your water breaks, but you may not, and if you do not, you need help with Pitocin so you can move toward having your baby in a timely fashion, because, once your water has broken, the longer the it has been broken the more chance the baby has to get an infection, and no one wants that. And Pitocin is very safe when properly used.
- Contractions, which may or may not start in your back , but when you are in real labor your contractions will keep getting closer together, last longer and hurt more. And when you are in good labor your entire uterus will tighten up and hurt for 1-2 minutes and you will be having the contractions every 3-5 minutes.
If you think you are in labor, you should always call Dr. Patterson first,, before you go to the hospital, so he knows you are going, so he will call the labor room and alert them that you are coming, so they will get a nurse assigned to you and a room ready for you, and if you have a special situation, they will know in advance that you are coming! The worst thing that you can do is go to the hospital without calling Dr. Patterson.
Contact Dr. Alan Patterson if you think that you’re in the early stages of labor. Do not waste time by contacting him online and simply call him instead.