Pregnant women have likely heard plenty of labor and birth stories, and many of them probably contradict each other. Some women have their water break noticeably, some don’t notice their water break at all. Some feel extreme pain in their back, while others feel more period-like cramps. So how do you know which of these signs actually mean labor is coming? What should you watch out for?
Here are some signs of true labor and some signs mistaken as true signs. However, it’s important to acknowledge that no matter what you’re feeling, you should contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy.
Unlike how the movies make it seem, very few women actually experience a huge, dramatic gushing of water, then immediately go into labor. Most women don’t even notice their water break at all because it can happen very gradually. If you do notice leakage but it is not accompanied by contractions, labor may not be imminent. However, if you do feel contractions as well as leakage, baby may be coming soon! Either way, don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you notice anything unusual that makes you feel nervous.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, true contractions are spaced by regular intervals and are not eased by movement or lying down, food, a warm bath, etc. For me personally, I had uterine irritability which was characterized by consistently-spaced contractions that were not made better by lying down, so I often thought I was going into labor. After being monitored by my doctor, I was told I simply had to wait an hour or so and they should eventually go away. These contractions were by dehydration, so staying hydrated helped me to know when I went into labor, that it was real.
Once I went into labor, I knew they were real. The contractions I felt the morning my son was born were higher in my abdomen and WAY more painful than the “practice contractions” I’d been feeling before this. According to the American Pregnancy Association and confirmed by my own experience, real contractions were not like the super tight Braxton Hicks contractions, and they only got worse with time.
It can’t be emphasized enough that any worrisome sign should be discussed with your doctor. That said, as the cervix dilates the mucous plug will become thinner and many women notice spotting or bloody mucous in their underwear or in the toilet, which is often an indication that labor is close.
Pregnant women often hear that “dropping” is a sign that labor is close because the baby is moving into position to come out. If you notice your belly dropping lower, don’t get too excited. It could still be several weeks until labor.
True labor contractions are often characterized by pain that radiates into the back. If you are feeling contractions that seem to radiate to your back and they previously didn’t, this could be a sign that labor is close.
Your labor may or may not be followed by some or all of these signs. As much as I wish I knew of a sure-fire sequence of events that would let you know for sure when you would go into labor, everyone’s bodies are different and follow a different pattern. Pay attention to your body and stay in touch with your doctor to ensure your body and baby receive the proper attention and care necessary for a successful delivery.