Throughout your pregnancy, you have probably experienced some aches and pains. More than likely you have even felt some contractions in your abdomen as your uterus periodically spasms or contracts in a way that mimics mild labor pains.
These early contractions (known as the Braxton Hicks contractions) are not to be confused with real labor pains however. So how do you avoid confusing these practice contractions with the real thing? Here is how you can identify the signs of real labor pain:
Learn to indentify the practice contractions or false labor: Braxton Hicks contractions begin as early as 6 weeks gestation, but you may not actually feel them until the second or third trimester.
These pains are characterized by infrequency, random and can happen at irregular intervals.
The cramping or pain is only mild in this case because the uterus is just practicing for the real thing.
These contractions are the tightening of the uterine muscles for an hour or two and could be part of the process of the thinning or effacement of the cervix.
It should be remembered that many women do not experience Braxton Hicks contractions at all; not having them is as normal as having them.
Real labor may be accompanied by certain other signs and symptoms: Real labor will happen later in the pregnancy and unless yours is a preterm delivery, it will happen after the completion of the 37th week of your pregnancy. In the event it will be accompanied by other signs of going into labor such as:
- The head of the baby will have settled into the birthing canal, a stage also known as lightening.
- Your water may break. The mucus plug that seals the mouth of the uterus and amniotic sac is dislodged and the amniotic fluid escapes in a gush or in a trickle, indicating that the baby is now on his way.
- You may have a “show” or a slightly bloody discharge as the mucus plug is dislodged.
- Lower back pain will also indicate that it is labor and not practice contractions.
The contractions will start in real earnest: When real labor begins, the contractions will be strong and more painful. They will be frequent and evenly spaced, with predictable durations and periods between them.
Timing the contractions will give you an idea that this is indeed real labor pain and that you need to call your doctor or midwife!