How will I know if I'm going into labor? Labor & Birth


Pregnant woman sitting inside nursery.
You've been waiting for baby's arrival for nine months. But how will you know when you're really in labor? These moms share how to recognize the signs that baby's definitely ready to meet you.

Use the 5-1-1 Rule

"When your contractions are consistently five minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds to one minute, for at least an hour [five minutes apart, one minute long, for one hour], you're likely in labor. Some women start labor very slowly -- and early labor can last days for some women, while others go almost immediately into active labor. I recommend calling your doctor or going to the hospital if your water breaks, you have heavy bleeding, or you don't feel your baby moving." -- Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, CA

Regular, Painful Contractions

"When you start experiencing regular painful contractions that are frequent and start to form a pattern, that typically indicates the onset of labor." -- Sheeva Talebian, MD, member of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), New York, NY

Mucus Plug Discharge

"My first clue for both of my babies was my discharge/plug changing. It gets to be waxy or rubbery, super thick, and nearly impossible to wipe off. I had it two hours before active labor with my first baby."

Period-Type Cramps

"My early labor felt like period cramps -- not like Braxton-Hicks or regular contractions -- very, very crampy and also in my lower back, just like I was about to start my period."

Water Breaking

"With my first baby, my water broke -- labor with the other babies started with contractions. They started mild, but five minutes apart. While they weren't super painful, I clearly felt a tightening from both sides towards the peak in my lower front stomach."

Weird Symptoms

"I had a false alarm last week, and it turned out that I was dehydrated and having Braxton-Hicks contractions. With my oldest child, I got very restless the day before I went into labor and had hardcore nesting instinct. I started to vomit, lost my plug, had cramps different from Braxton-Hicks, and then I started to spot."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.