A woman in labor
Healthy Living

How Do I Know When I’m in Labor?

Apr 15 2021

There will come a point when every mom will know without a doubt that she is in labor. However, if you’re a new mom experiencing pregnancy for the first time, those early labor signs can be hard to detect.

Neha Jeirath, MD, an OB/GYN at Mercy Health – East Obstetrics and Gynecology, breaks down what a mom can expect as she prepares to welcome her baby – or babies – into the world.

When some moms experience back pain late in their pregnancy, they wonder if it’s a sign that labor is starting. Back pain is common in pregnancy, so it can be hard to know whether it is related to labor or just part of the “normal” aches and pains.

Other moms will experience Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks before going into true labor. This can be really confusing and frustrating. While this “false labor” can feel like the real deal for a while, if the contractions go away or get less intense after resting, it’s not true labor.

It is hard to predict when labor will happen. Many OB/GYNS will check to see if you have started dilating during your prenatal appointments. That is one guide toward knowing that things are progressing.

Increasing contractions are another sign you can monitor and track. Typically, when moms have entered labor, they will have regular contractions that get more frequent and painful over time as they cause her cervix to dilate. Other symptoms that go along with entering labor include your water breaking or some light vaginal spotting that happens as your cervix starts to dilate. This is called bloody show.

Any time you are worried something is wrong, it’s important to call your doctor. This is especially true if you are having severe pains, bleeding or if baby isn’t moving like normal. I always tell my patients that I would much rather hear from them with their concerns and have it turn out to be nothing than not hear from them and miss something big.

Things can change quickly in pregnancy from one day to the next. It is important to keep in touch with your doctor about symptoms that seem out of the realm of what’s normal for you. We have a lot of moms that call and many times we can help guide them on to the next best steps after getting a little more information over the phone.

The best advice I can give first-time moms is to ask lots of questions at your prenatal visits and throughout your pregnancy, so you have all the information you want and need before baby comes. Friends and family members who have been pregnant before can also be a great source of information and advice. Talking to your doctor about what to expect at the hospital you will be delivering at can also help ease some of the nerves that surround delivery.

A lot of times, things don’t always go quite as planned, so being flexible is key. In the end, the goal is to have a happy, healthy mom and baby!

Learn about the maternity care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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