Preparing for Labor & Birth
Labor precautions and how to know the difference between true and false labor
Spring is approaching! The newness and fresh start of this season brings peace and warmth to the heart and soul. It reminds me of new green growth, flowers blooming, bird eggs waiting to hatch, and baby animals being born. It is a great time to celebrate birth. Many of you mommies are in your third trimester, nearing delivery, and labor/birth weigh heavy on your mind at this time.
“How will I know I am in labor?”
As the end of your pregnancy approaches, this might become a concern. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between aches/pains of pregnancy vs. Braxton Hicks contractions vs. real labor contractions.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
These are considered “practice” contractions. They can start as early as your second trimester, but more likely occur during your third trimester. Signs that you are having Braxton Hicks contractions (and not true labor) include:
- Contractions are irregular, not coming closer together, may space out on their own, occur infrequently (I.e. every 30 minutes)
- They may stop when you walk, rest, hydrate or change position
- Pain is usually only felt in the front
- No change to your cervix
Braxton Hicks contractions can be instigated by heavy maternal and fetal activity, a touch to your belly, a very full bladder that needs to be emptied, sexual intercourse, or dehydration.
Unlike musculoskeletal aches and pains of pregnancy, in labor you may feel a pain that may bring you to your knees that you can’t walk, talk or text through followed by COMPLETE relief in between contractions with the process repeating itself. You will feel so vastly different during a true labor contraction as compared to the time between contractions. This allows you be able to thus time the contractions (record the number of minutes from the start of one contraction to the start of the next contraction). It will not be like pains of pregnancy that hold a more constant underlying pain that waxes and wanes.
Labor may take a while to become regular. Signs of true labor can include:
- A small amount of vaginal blood or blood-tinged mucus
- Cramps and increased back pains
- Contractions get stronger, more frequent, more intense, and last longer
- Walking, hydration or changing positions doesn’t stop the contractions
- Pain starts in the back and moves to the front
- Your cervix begins to dilate
The “5-1-1” rule…Go to the hospital if your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, and continuing for more that 1 hour.
How long does labor last?
Everyone’s pregnancy and labor experience will be different. It may be faster and easier than you anticipated or longer and harder than you thought it would be. However, the following are general guidelines:
- For first time moms, you could spend 12-18 hours in labor
- For those who have had a vaginal delivery before, labor could be closer to 6-12 hours
If you experience any of these symptoms, go to the hospital labor & delivery right away:
- Your water breaks (with or without contractions)
- Your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart and continuing for more that 1-2 hours
- You experience heavy vaginal bleeding (like a menstrual period)
- You constant severe abdominal pain that doesn’t come and go with contractions
- You notice your baby is not moving as often as usual
- You had a previous cesarean birth and think you are in labor