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How to Know If You're in Labor

Learn how to tell you're in labor from childbirth expert Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach in this Howcast video.


So what are the signs that labor is beginning? You might be experiencing menstrual cramps, lower backache, soft bowel movements. So another sign of labor beginning is the discharge of the mucous plug or bloody show. The mucous plug is the plug inside your cervix that keeps the baby in. So when labor starts, the mucous plug will start to come out. This can happen anywhere from a few weeks before you give birth to a few hours before you actually go into labor. Another sign that labor is beginning is the sign of uterine contractions. So you’ll want to be placing your fingertips on the top of your uterus, on the top of your belly. This is called the fundus, and as you have a contraction, the uterine muscles get stronger and pull together, and you will feel the contraction at the top of the uterus. Contractions get stronger, longer and closer together as labor progresses. Usually during early labor, contractions start out being anywhere from 15 t0 20 minutes apart, and then get closer and closer together. In early labor your contractions are usually about 30 seconds long. Another sign of labor beginning is the leaking of amniotic fluid. So it’s not like it happens in the movies and your water breaks, and then you have to rush to the hospital. Sometimes what happens is you’ll have a high tear in the amniotic sac, and so the amniotic fluid will have what’s called a slow leak. So you want to be mindful of any kind of vaginal discharge that you’re having throughout labor. Certainly if your water breaks, and it’s a big gush, there are different things that you want to look for when this happens. There’s an acronym called TACO. So you want to think about the time, the amount, the color of the fluid and if there’s an odor. When you water breaks, if the fluid is tinged in color or looks like pea soup or is darker brown, this can be a sign of meconium, which is the baby’s first bowel movement. And then this is a time when you should call your care provider. Some of the earlier signs of labor starting are soft bowel movements. Sometimes you might have diarrhea. You might feel this intense urge to do what’s called nesting. You might start cleaning the house or sweeping the floor or organizing your baby’s room. These are all signs to look for to show that labor is soon on its way.

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