Every woman’s experience with labor is different, so knowing if it’s active labor or simply false labor pains can be tricky. Being as prepared as possible will help reduce anxiety when those first signs appear. Here are tips to know when it’s time to head to the hospital.
False labor, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, can feel very much like active labor. But, unlike true labor, they are irregular in frequency, less intense and usually go away if you change positions.
Active labor can range from four to eight hours, and, sometimes, longer. Your cervix most likely will be dilated 6 to 10 centimeters, and you will notice stronger symptoms as time passes. Symptoms include back pain, leg cramps and nausea. This also is when your water will break.
You will feel strong and consistent contractions that are five to 10 minutes apart. They will become stronger and more frequent. Walking will become impossible, and changing positions to relieve the pain will not help.
This is when you should begin timing the contractions. When they consistently are five minutes apart, it is time to call your OB-GYN and/or head to the hospital. Be sure to explain all your symptoms and concerns to your OB-GYN.
Early labor easily can feel like active labor, especially if it is your first baby. In terms of duration, it is up to your baby and body to decide. Until you notice more consistent contractions, try your best to stay relaxed.
When early labor begins, your cervix begins to dilate, which can occur hours or even days before the onset of labor. It’s not unusual for women not to notice this. Breathing becomes easier again as it feels like your baby has “dropped,” relieving pressure on your diaphragm. Mild or irregular contractions may occur in intervals of 10 minutes, then five minutes, then two minutes, etc.
Rest assured that it is unlikely that you will go into labor without warning as your body will let you know when you’re approaching the big day. Stay prepared and have your hospital bag packed, so, when the time is right, you’re ready to leave. If you’re unsure, always be safe, call your doctor or go to the hospital to be checked.
– Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, PC has seven OB-GYNs and five advanced practice providers, with offices in Canton and Woodstock.
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