How to Tell When Labor Begins


Labor can look different in many different women. The average length of pregnancy is 280 days, or 40 weeks, however it is impossible to know exactly when you will go into labor. Majority of women go into labor between 38 and 41 weeks of pregnancy. The more knowledgeable you are on the expectations of labor, the more prepared you will be for labor. The changes you can keep an eye out for are lightening, which is the sensation that the fetus has dropped lower and the head settles deep in your pelvis. In addition to that, the loss of the mucus plug occurs, which is when the cervix begins to dilate several days before labor begins or at the start of labor, the plug is pushed into the vagina and some women lose the entire plug. Following that, may be your “water breaking”, which is when the amniotic sac breaks releasing amniotic fluid. Lastly, you will feel your contractions. As your uterus contracts, you tend to feel pain in your back and pelvis. Some contractions may feel similar to menstrual cramps. As the cervix dilates and muscles of the uterus contract at regular intervals and the abdomen becomes hard. However, in between the contractions, the uterus relaxes and becomes soft. Labor contractions happen in a regular pattern and get closer together over time. It is important to know the difference between false labor and true labor. False labor does not normally have a pattern and is less regular and not as strong when compared to true labor. This is why it is very important to time your contractions and take notes on if they continue as you rest and drink water. Labor is different for every woman. Typically for new moms labor can last from 12-18 hours. For those that have had babies in the past, the average is about 8-10 hours. Labor can look different for everyone, but always feel free to contact your provider for any questions or concerns you may have.

ACOG American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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