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Signs of Labor

Video Transcription:
Hi, I’m Andi, I’m a nurse here at Moreland OB-GYN--here today to answer some frequent questions about how to identify when you are in labor. Today I’m providing guidelines for a typical labor, but please follow the guidelines provided by your doctor. How will I know when I’m in labor? You will begin to notice that contractions will start at the top of your uterus or the top of your belly, and those contractions over time will become more and more frequent. Initially, those contractions might come at maybe 10 or 20-minute intervals, and throughout a duration of time, those contractions will eventually become every 1 to 2 minutes. Initially, you may be distracted from what you are doing throughout your day, but eventually, those contractions will be strong enough that no matter what you are doing you will have to stop and take time and breathe with them. Another sign of labor can be the rupture of membranes. For some women, this is a slow trickle of fluid where you just can’t feel clean no matter what you do. For other women, it’s a large gush of fluid like in the movies where it’s running down your legs. If that is occurring, make note of the time the rupture occurs, the color of the fluid, and the quantity of the fluid you are experiencing. The next step is to contact your doctor. As women get closer to their due date, they may experience false labor. False labor are bouts of contractions that can occur. These are contractions though that you may experience several of them. Say you are active, you are walking around, you experience contractions, you think that this might be it, but then you stop, you sit, and they go away. It can be very frustrating, especially as you are anticipating your due date approaching. You get excited, you get ready to go to the hospital, and sure enough, you stop, you sit, you drink a big glass of water or you lay down, and they dissolve and they go away. False labor is not uncommon—it’s not meant to feel defeating or discouraging but it’s very normal as your body is preparing for labor in and of itself. What Should I do if I’m in Labor? For first-time moms, if you’re contracting for every five minutes or less for at least an hour, each contraction is at least 60 seconds or longer, they are taking your breath away, all you can do is breathe with them, you’re distracted from any other activity, we want to know about it. Or if your bag of waters has broken, you are having any bright red bleeding more than a period, or if your baby’s not moving, please contact our office. If this is not your first baby, and you have been experiencing contractions every 5 to 10 minutes, lasting at least 60 to 90 seconds for at least an hour, if you are having any bright red bleeding more than a period, if you think your bag of waters has ruptured, or your baby is not moving like normal, you should also be evaluated. Another question is what if I’m scheduled for a C-Section and I think I have gone into labor? What we would want you to do is contact us as soon as you think your labor has started, and stop eating or drinking. The reason for that is we would want to prepare for your surgery and know as soon as possible. During operating hours, triage nurses are always available to answer your questions. After hours, holidays, and weekends, physicians are available on-call to answer any of your questions. Please DO NOT send MyChart messages with any questions regarding labor, rupture of membranes, or any concerns regarding the well-being of your baby. And do not hesitate, no questions are considered foolish. We hope you found this video helpful today. Our goal is the lead women to better health.

Frequently Asked Labor Questions

When should I expect to go into labor?
Labor normally starts when your baby is full grown or as we call it “term.” This can be as early as two weeks before your due date to as late as two weeks after your due date. If labor begins earlier than two weeks ahead of your due date, your baby can be born too early or premature. If it doesn’t happen until later than two weeks after your due date, your baby can be born overdue or post maturely.
How will I know that I'm in labor?

Labor occurs when your uterus begins to tighten over and over again in an effort to push the baby out. This tightness or contractions are usually felt at the back and spread over the whole belly area. They last from about 45 to 60 seconds and occur about every 10 to 20 minutes. After an hour or two, these contractions usually become stronger and closer together.

Sometimes a small amount of thick blood streaked mucous may come from the cervix, through the vagina during labor. This mucous plug is normal. Some women experience a sudden gush or slow leaking of clear fluid (amniotic fluid) from their vagina. This is the liquid that has surrounded and cushioned the baby so far. Usually, this fluid is forced out toward the end of labor, but sometimes it occurs earlier. You should call your doctor if this happens to you.

What is false labor?

These are pains that are often felt in the low belly which don’t follow a regular time pattern or become more intense over time. They usually go away in a few hours. Often times if you lay down on your side for about an hour and drink a large glass of water, they will go away.

What should I do if I'm really in labor?

First, use a clock to check how far apart the contractions are and how long they last. When they are strong and occurring about 10 minutes apart, call us and we will tell you the best time to go to the hospital. A physician is available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 262-544-4411—when calling after office hours, the answering service 1-800-446-3274 will direct your call.

What if I'm supposed to have a cesarean section?
Let us know as soon as your labor begins, since you will need to get to the hospital very soon and we will want to be ready for surgery when you arrive.
What are the warning signs in labor that tell me I need to call the doctor or go to the hospital as soon as possible?
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Rupture of membranes (bag of water)

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