Pregnancy - Labor

Pregnancy - Labor

Is this your symptom?

  • Having contractions or other signs of labor
  • 37 - 42 weeks pregnant

Symptoms of Labor

Labor can be different for every woman. The symptoms of labor can occur in any order.

  • Bag of water breaks (rupture of membranes)
  • Bloody show
  • Contractions
  • Lightening (dropping)
  • Loss of mucous plug

During true labor contractions cause the cervix to thin (effacement) and stretch (dilatation).

  • Contractions get more regular.
  • Contractions get stronger and more frequent over time.
  • Contractions get stronger even after walking around.
  • Contractions start in the lower back and wrap around to the lower stomach.

What are the Symptoms of False Labor (Braxton-Hicks Contractions)?

During false labor contractions do not cause thinning or stretching of the cervix.

  • Contractions are NOT regular.
  • Contractions do NOT get stronger and more frequent over time.
  • Contractions decrease with activity, for example, walking.
  • The pain from contractions tends to be felt in the upper stomach rather than in the back or lower stomach.

What is a Lightening?

Near the end of pregnancy the baby drops or settles into the mother's pelvis. This is called dropping, lightening, or engagement. When this happens, the mother may notice her stomach looks different. She may find it easier to breathe. She might say that she is "carrying the baby lower." However, the baby puts more pressure on the bladder. This makes the mother feel like she has to urinate more often.

  • Why does this happen? The baby is moving down into the pelvis to get ready for labor.
  • What does this mean? Dropping usually occurs about 2 to 4 weeks before labor. However, it is not a good way to predict when labor will happen.

What is a Mucous Plug?

Many women will pass a small glob or chunk of jelly-like mucous at the end of the pregnancy. It may look like gelatin or snot. There may also be a small amount of pinkish, brownish, or blood-tinged mucous. This is called the "mucous plug."

  • Why does this happen? In late pregnancy the cervix (opening to the womb) starts to thin and stretch out. The mucous that seals the cervix falls out.
  • What does this mean? It may be a sign that a mother is getting closer to her delivery time. However, often it occurs a week or two before labor.

What is Bloody Show?

Most women have a small amount of pinkish, brownish, or blood-tinged mucous at the end of the pregnancy. This is called the "bloody show."

  • Why does this happen? In late pregnancy the cervix (opening to the womb) starts to thin and stretch out. This causes some of the tiny blood vessels in the cervix to bleed.
  • What does this mean? Bloody show is a sign that you're getting closer to delivery time. This often happens about 2 to 3 days before going into labor. Sometimes labor can start several hours later!

When to Call for Pregnancy - Labor

Call 911 Now

  • Passed out (fainted)
  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Severe vaginal bleeding (non-stop bleeding or large blood clots)
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Umbilical cord hanging out of the vagina (shiny, white, curled appearance)
  • Can't control urge to push (feels like baby is coming out now)
  • Can see baby
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Stomach pain
  • Fever over 100.4° F (38.0° C)
  • New hand or face swelling
  • New low back pain or pelvic pressure that does not go away
  • You think your bag of water broke (leaking fluid from vagina)
  • You think you are in labor (having contractions)
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • You do not think you are in labor

Care Advice

Labor

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Labor can be different for every woman. The symptoms of labor can occur in any order.
    • Symptoms include: leaking of fluid from vagina (broken bag of water), bloody show, contractions, lightening (dropping), and loss of mucous plug.
    • With true labor the contractions get stronger, more regular, and more frequent.
  2. Contractions:
    • Drink 2 glasses of water
    • Lie down on your left side and rest.
    • Count the contractions for a one hour period.
    • Time your contractions by measuring from the start of one contraction to the start of the next.
  3. Call Your Doctor (or Go To Labor and Delivery) If:
    • First baby and you have contractions less than 6 minutes apart for 2 hours
    • Have had a baby before and you have contractions less than 10 minutes apart for 1 hour
    • Have had a baby before, it was a very fast delivery, and you have contractions less than 10 minutes apart
    • Vaginal bleeding occurs
    • Stomach or belly pain occurs
    • Your baby is moving less
    • Your bag of water breaks
    • You think you are in labor
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You become worse

Baby Movement and Kick Count Instructions

  1. Baby Movement and Pregnancy Dates:
    • 1-15 Weeks: Baby is too small for mother to feel the baby move.
    • 16-18 Weeks: Some women begin to feel the baby move, especially if they had a baby before.
    • 18-20 Weeks: Most women begin to feel the baby move around this time.
    • 24 Weeks: All women should feel the baby move by this time.
    • Over 28 Weeks: Some doctors advise that women check kick counts each day.
  2. How to Do a Kick Count:
    • Pick the time of the day that your baby is most active.
    • Sit back in a comfortable chair or lie down on your left side in bed.
    • Do this in a quiet room (no TV, cell phone, computer, or children).
    • Count any baby movement (kicks, rolls, flutters). Count up to 10.
    • Normal Kick Count: 5 or more in one hour, or 10 or more in 2 hours.
    • Low Kick Count: Less than 5 in one hour, or less than 10 in 2 hours.
  3. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Low kick count (less than 5 in 1 hour, or less than 10 in 2 hours)
    • Kick count is normal, but you still are worried that something is wrong
    • You have other questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 7/20/2017 1:10:43 AM
Last Updated: 5/17/2017 5:42:37 PM

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