As the end of your pregnancy approaches you are probably becoming a little nervous about what to expect, what early signs of labor, and when the call the doctor. Every new mother has these same fears and worries. Knowing how to identify “real” labor, having all the phone numbers handy of who to call when your labor starts, and talking to your doctor about your fears will all help to ease your worries.

So what is labor? Labor is what your body does in order to prepare for and deliver your baby. The contractions help to thin and open the cervix so your baby can move down and out of the birth canal.

Labor will generally start around your due date. If you are experiencing labor symptoms early call your doctor right away. Each pregnancy is different, some women have quick labors, while others will labor for much longer. Just like with everything else about pregnancy every one is different.

Your body will begin doing things to prepare for the labor and delivery any where from a few hours to a few days before your actual labor will begin. This is commonly known as pre-labor. Here are a few early signs of labor to watch out for.

  • Your may notice that your baby seems to have “dropped”. Some time during the last few weeks or days of your pregnancy the baby will begin moving into position for delivery. This is known as enlightening or “dropping”.
  • You may notice that your Braxton Hicks or false labor pains are becoming stronger. These are not actual labor pains but they do work to help begin thinning out the cervix in preparation for the real thing.
  • Many women experience an upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea in the days leading up to labor. Your body is getting ready for the pushing that will take place by cleaning out your system.
  • You may experience bloody show (a blood streaked mucus). This typically happens as the cervix begins to dilate. The bloody show is also know as a mucus plug, which plugs the cervix during pregnancy to help prevent infections and bacteria from entering the uterus during pregnancy.

Given all the symptoms that your body is going through to prepare for “real” labor how will you know when the real thing has started? It can be difficult at first to know if what you are experiencing is indeed labor, in no time you will figure it out. Here are the signs that “real” labor has begun and it is time to call the doctor and head to the hospital.

  • Contractions are coming with some frequency at regular intervals, don’t subside when you change position or drink water. When you begin to feel contractions you will want to begin timing them as the doctor will want to know how far apart they are and how long they are lasting.
  • Unlike with false labor pains (Braxton Hicks contractions) you will feel real labor contractions in your back as well as your stomach. The contractions will typically begin in your back and move around to the front.
  • You may feel abdominal cramping or an upset stomach, as well as experience diarrhea. This is thought to be caused by the increased hormones that prompt labor to begin.
  • Your water will break, also known as ruptured membranes. Not all women will experience this, some women will have to have their water broken after arriving at the hospital.

If you experience any of these symptoms, or you have other indications that labor has begun contact your doctor. Your doctor will likely get some information from you to try to determine if this is the real thing and how far along you are. If this is indeed the real thing the doctor will advise you to head to the hospital.

Knowing what to expect and how to identify the early signs of labor can be a little nerve wracking for new mothers. Talk to your doctor or midwife about your concerns and fears. They can help educate you so you feel better prepared.

Here are a few helpful websites.

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