Oh, baby! It’s time – or is it?

For pregnant women, the most confusing thing about labor pains is how to tell the difference between a warm-up and the main event. That’s because “false labor” is no urban myth – a woman’s body does indeed prepare for active labor in a way that sometimes mimics symptoms of the real thing.

First off, take a deep breath. There is nothing bad or abnormal if you’re worried about telling the difference between false labor and the real thing. We’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Ashley Conway, OB/GYN at Trinity Medical WNY to determine if you’re in labor.

“Bottom line: If you think you might be in labor, you should call your OB! We can help you decide if it’s time. It’s important to call before coming to labor and delivery for several reasons. During office hours, we may be able to see you in the office and avoid you a trip to the hospital if it turns out you aren’t really in labor.”

Ashley Conway, MD

OB/GYN, Trinity Medical WNY

How Do I Know If I’m in Labor? 

Women may wonder, “when it does happen, will I know it’s happening?”. True labor contractions are painful… as in, “stop you in your tracks” painful. Labor contractions occur regularly, more frequently as time goes on. For example, sometimes they start about 10 minutes apart, then get closer together. When it gets to be 5-7 minutes between contractions, it’s time to call your obstetrician.

Always call your OB/midwife if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking of fluid, or you think your water may have broken
  • You aren’t feeling your baby move as much as usual
  • You’re experiencing regular contractions every 5 minutes for an hour 

What Is Early Labor? 

Early labor is the beginning part of labor, and a completely normal, healthy part of the birthing process. During this stage, moms-to-be will notice contractions becoming stronger and occurring closer together.

Sometimes, especially for first-time moms, early labor can last for a long time. Unless you’ve had different instruction from your OB/GYN, remaining at home during the “early labor” phase is an option for most women.

If you’ve had certain complications during your pregnancy, you may have been advised to come to the hospital sooner, so always check with your physician or midwife.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions? 

The major difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and early labor is that Braxton Hicks are inconsistent pains that can start as early as your second trimester of pregnancy. They can be annoying! But this is a normal part of pregnancy, and does not mean you are in labor.

Some women notice they go away when you change your position, rest, or drink water. You may experience them more when you are dehydrated, after exercising or having sex.

Braxton Hicks contractions can be classified as false labor pains because they do not get closer together or stronger over time.  True labor pains do not behave like this.

What If I Lose My Mucus Plug? 

The mucus plug forms in a woman’s cervix during pregnancy. When the cervix begins to widen, as it does during labor, the mucus is discharged. However, loss of your mucus plug does not necessarily mean you are going into labor.

Some women may lose their mucus plug weeks before true labor occurs. You don’t have to call your OB/GYN if your mucus plug comes out, unless it is accompanied by additional symptoms that are concerning you.

Talk with Your Doctor or Midwife

It’s important to keep your OB/GYN or midwife updated on any changes you experience throughout your pregnancy, especially as you approach your due date. Childbirth is an exciting time for many women, but it can also be stressful at times.

If you have questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to reach out to your care provider.

Find an OB/GYN or Midwife Near You
Call (716) 923-7152

Find an OB/GYN or Midwife Near You
Call (716) 923-7152