How Do I Know When Labor Begins?

While your due date is a good estimate of when your baby will deliver, it is only an estimate. Most people give birth somewhere between 38 and 42 weeks, or within two weeks of your due date. Around 35-36 weeks is a good time to discuss any questions or concerns you have about delivery with your physician.

What should I do if I start having contractions?

Time your contractions. If you are having contractions that are irregular or >5 minutes apart, try taking Tylenol with a full glass of water, eating a light meal, and laying down on your left side. The contractions will typically get stronger, harder, and closer together if they are true labor contractions. True labor contractions will typically occur every five minutes, last one minute, and last for longer than one hour. If you have these symptoms, call the office or go to the hospital.

What if my water breaks?

When your water breaks, you typically notice a gush of clear fluid that continues to leak out or a continuous leakage of clear fluid, often requiring use of a pad. It is not uncommon for you to leak some urine toward the end of pregnancy—this can be confusing for ruptured membranes. There is also a substantial increase in the amount of vaginal discharge toward the end of pregnancy that can also be confusing. If there is any question, your physician will perform an exam to confirm that your water has broken. Do not wait for contractions to start before you call the office—they may not start on their own. You should try to reach the hospital within an hour or so of your water breaking.

Will I know if I’m in labor?

Many women, particularly those who are having their first baby, are concerned that they will not know if they are truly in labor. Sometimes, that is true. It is not uncommon to have contractions that are regular and painful, but subsequently subside. You may also experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. These are typically less painful and irregular and may only feel like tightening of your stomach. True labor is defined as regular contractions that are causing cervical dilation. If you go to Flowers Labor and Delivery for contractions, you will typically be monitored for several hours to determine if you are truly in labor. If your contractions begin to diminish and your cervix is not changing, you may be sent home.

A few things that happen closer to time of delivery:

▪ “Lightening”—a term used to describe the movement of the baby’s head into the pelvis or the “baby dropping”

▪ Passing the “mucous plug”—a thick conglomeration of mucous collects in the cervix during pregnancy. When the cervix starts to soften and dilate, this can pass. This can happen several days or weeks prior to labor beginning.

▪ “Bloody show”—as the cervix dilates, you may notice a small amount of spotting or bloody mucous. This is also common after a cervical exam is performed in the office.

When do I call?

If you have any questions or are not sure of the next best step, the best thing to do is to call the office at 334-699-2229. We are available from 8AM – 5PM in the office, and our physicians are available to talk to you after hours for emergencies. After hours, dial the same phone number to be connected to the answering service. The physician on call can answer any questions you have or direct you on the next best step.

Where do I go?

If you have spoken with our office or your physician and you are instructed to go to Flowers Hospital, you will enter at the Emergency Room. They will take you immediately to Labor and Delivery. This is on the 2nd floor of Flowers Hospital.