For first-time parents, one of the scariest things about labor is not recognizing when they are going into labor. There are many cautionary tales about parents recognizing labor at the right moment, and thus, they cannot get to the hospital in time.
It is understandable, especially since the signs of early labor aren’t so clear cut. Cramps, one of the earliest signs of labor, can be caused by many factors such as indigestion or the baby moving around.
So, how do you tell if you’re having contractions, and what should you do?
The first thing you need to do is figure out whether you’re actually going into labor or if you’re having Braxton-Hicks contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions are known as “false labor” because you feel like you’re going into labor even when you are not. However painful they become, you won’t deliver your baby if the pain is from Braxton-Hicks.
Since this phenomenon usually comes during the third trimester, they can easily be confused with real contractions, especially if they occur close to your due date. Here are some signs that the pain you are feeling is from Braxton-Hicks contractions:
• The contractions don’t intensify or occur in shorter intervals
• They go away if you urinate or change position
• They go away on their own if you breathe deeply
However, if the contractions do not go away even after your urine or change position or notice that they are becoming stronger and occur in shorter intervals, you might be going into active labor. One almost sure sign of labor is when your water breaks – the amniotic sac breaks, and you experience a rush of liquid leaking from your vagina.
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Once the contractions start, it is essential that you keep calm and focused. If you are alone, call a family member or a trusted friend and ask for their aid immediately.
If you know that you’re going into active labor, you should whatever labor plans you have. If you plan on a hospital birth, get someone you trust to bring you to the hospital immediately. On the way there, they should contact your OB-GYN to let them know that you are about to give birth.
If you have alternative plans such as a home birth or water birth, now is the time to reach out to them as well. Qualified and trusted alternative birth centers should have medical professionals on hand to monitor you and make sure that your delivery is safe.
Experiencing contractions for the first time can be scary, even if you’re only experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions. If you think you are in labour here are more tips before you go to the hospital. The closer you get to your due date, the more you should be prepared for your contractions to start any minute. Make sure that your birthing team is kept updated with your condition so that they can also be prepared to spring into action at a moment’s notice.