How Do You Know If You’re Really in Labor?

Whether you plan on giving birth at home or at the hospital, every first-time mother is wondering how she’ll know when labor has started. The easy answer is that you will know at some point. At the very latest, you will notice when your baby’s head is crowning. Of course, in order to prepare for the birth, it would be nice to know a little sooner than that.

The first thing you’ll notice will probably be contractions. If this is your second or subsequent baby, then you might have contractions several days or weeks before the baby is born. True labor contractions will do two things over time: they increase in intensity and frequency. False labor or Braxton-Hicks contractions tend to stay irregular, never form a pattern, and eventually fizzle out.

At some point in labor, you will have a bloody show. There shouldn’t be a lot of blood, but it’s definitely a sign that labor is underway. Most likely, you will already have contractions at this time.

Labor can also be accompanied by back pain. Depending on the baby’s position, the back pain can be quite severe.

It’s also possible for your water to break before you go into labor. Generally, labor will start within 48 hours of your water breaking. However, during many births, the waters don’t actually break until you’re pushing the baby out.

There are a lot of other signs that labor may be near, but none of them are clear-cut and conclusive. You may experience lightening (the baby descending into the lower pelvis), nesting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. And while they show that your body is getting ready for labor, the day of birth can still be quite a ways off.