Early Labor Signs

What are early labor signs?

Early labor signs are changes in your body that allow your baby to pass through your birth canal.

What are the signs and symptoms of early labor?

  • Lightening occurs when your baby drops inside your pelvis. You may feel increased pressure in your pelvis. This may happen a few weeks to a few hours before your labor begins.

  • Contractions are cramps and tightening that occur in your uterus to help move the baby through your birth canal. Contractions occur regularly and more often each time. Each one lasts about 30 to 70 seconds, and gets stronger until you deliver your baby. Contractions do not go away with movement. The pain starts in your lower back and moves to your abdomen.

  • Effacement occurs when your cervix softens and thins, so it can easily open for the baby. Your caregiver will examine your cervix for effacement.

  • Dilation is widening of your cervix, also for the baby's passage. Your caregiver will examine your cervix for dilation. Your cervix will be fully opened and ready for delivery when it is dilated to 10 centimeters.

  • Increased discharge from your vagina may occur. It may be pink, clear, or slightly bloody. This discharge may also be called bloody show. Bloody show is a mucus plug that forms and blocks your cervix during pregnancy.

  • Rupture of membranes is a sudden release of clear fluid from your vagina. It is also known as when your water breaks. Your caregiver may need to break your water if it does not break on its own.

What is false labor?

You may have false labor signs, which are also called Braxton Hicks contractions. False labor is common and may happen several weeks or days before your actual labor. The contractions are not regular, and do not get closer together. The pain is usually mild, does not worsen, and is felt only in front. Braxton Hicks contractions may happen later in the day, and stop after you change position, walk, or rest.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have pain in your lower back or abdomen.

  • You have bloody mucus or show.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have regular, painful contractions that are less than 5 minutes apart and last 30 to 70 seconds each.

  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding.

  • You have a constant trickle or sudden gush of clear fluid from your vagina.

  • You notice a sudden decrease in your baby's movement.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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