You've been waiting for months to meet your new baby, but how will you know when it's "go time"? The onset of labor doesn't always follow the same set of rules for everyone. Here are some key things to know about the labor process:
When will I go into labor?
The average length of pregnancy is 280 days, or 40 weeks from the start of your last menstrual period. Most women deliver between 38 and 41 weeks.
What causes labor to start?
We don't understand exactly what triggers labor to start, although hormones certainly play a role.
What happens to my body when labor begins?
The cervix (the opening to the uterus, or womb) begins to open, or dilate. The muscles of the uterus contract at regular intervals. When the uterus contracts, your abdomen becomes hard. These muscle contractions are usually rhythmic, happening every few minutes during active labor.
What changes should I watch for?
Certain changes may signal that labor is beginning. These include increase in vaginal discharge or loss of the "mucus plug", rupture of membranes, light pink or light red discharge, or contractions. Not everyone experiences these changes when labor begins.
What is rupture of membranes?
When the fluid-filled amniotic sac that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy breaks, it is called rupture of membranes. It is also referred to as your "water breaking". You may feel this as warm fluid that trickles or even gushes from your vagina. If your water breaks, call your ob-gyn and follow your instructions, or go directly to the hospital.
What do contractions feel like?
Contractions are just that - muscle contractions of the muscle in the uterus. With contractions, you may feel pain in your stomach, back, or pelvis. The pain may be similar to menstrual cramps. Contractions may happen off and on prior to the onset of true labor ("Braxton Hicks" contractions), but when you are truly in labor, the contractions will continue and they normally happen in regular intervals.
How will I know the difference between TRUE labor and FALSE labor?
Usually, "false" contractions are not as regular and not as strong as "true" labor. If you start having contractions, you should make sure you are adequately hydrated, sit and rest, and watch the clock, timing your contractions. If they space out or go away, that is not true labor. If they persist, or become stronger over time, and get closer together, it may be the real thing.
How will I know when to call my ob-gyn? Or should I go to the hospital?
If you are not sure if you are in labor, it is always ok to call your ob-gyn!
However, you should go directly to the hospital - no call needed - if you have any of these signs:
Your water has broken
You are bleeding heavily from the vagina
You have constant, severe pain with no relief between contractions
Your baby isn't moving normally
The 5-1-1 rule... you have been timing your contractions and are having a contraction every 5 minutes, the contractions each last about one minute or longer, and this has been going on for 1 hour (the 5-1-1 rule!).
What should I do to prepare prior to going into labor?
Make a trial run to the hospital so you know about how long it will take to drive there, where to park, etc. You should also pack a hospital bag and have it in a handy place, such as next to your front door or in the trunk of your car. Also, it is good to make arrangements for care for your other children, pets, and home while you are in the hospital. Make sure you have a car seat for the baby installed in the car and ready to go!
Do you have questions about when labor begins? All of us here at Premier OB-Gyn are happy to answer your questions and make you feel as comfortable as possible. Book your appointment today!
Premier OB-Gyn is accepting new patients in both our Maitland, FL and Oviedo, FL locations. We would be happy to see you! Please call 321-397-1212 or visit www.premierob-gyn.com to book your appointment!