Is This Labor?
Recognizing True Labor
It seems unfair that the best advice most experienced mothers will give you is, "You'll know when it's labor." Even if it is true, it is not especially helpful for the first time mother. What signs should she be looking for to let her know that labor is really starting?
Your body is going to go through periods of contractions that may be regular or irregular for days or weeks before your true labor begins. These contractions may feel strong or mild, some women do not notice them. But they will have some differences from true labor contractions.
The first difference is that true labor contractions will not space out or slow down when you change activities, pre-labor contractions will. In fact, very often true labor contractions will increase when you change activity.
Another difference has to do with the overall pattern of contractions. In true labor, contractions will build in intensity and length, and they will get closer together. Pre-labor contractions will remain the same for many hours, sometimes days.
Testing for True Labor
There are a few "self-tests" you can do to determine if what you are experiencing is actually labor.
- Drink some water - Dehydration can cause you to feel contractions that look just like true labor, but are not productive (there is no cervical change).
- Eat something - Some women find that hunger brings on Braxton-Hicks (pre-labor) contractions. Eating seems to stop these contractions.
- Change your Activity - With pre-labor, changing activity (like resting if you have been walking around or going for a walk if you have been resting) can cause the contractions to stop.
- Watch the contraction pattern - Even if you are having contractions less than 10 minutes apart, it may not be true labor. Time five contractions, wait an hour or two and time five more. If the contractions are staying the same (not getting closer together or longer) it is pre-labor.