Labor and Childbirth

Most babies are not born on their expected due date.  In fact, it is difficult to predict when your labor will actually start.  It is even more difficult to know when you will break your bag of water.  However, you can watch for signs that tell you when it’s time to head to the hospital.  It is a good idea to take childbirth classes to prepare you and your family for this amazing journey.



Watch for signs of labor

False labor or Braxton Hicks:

False labor is when your uterus contracts but does not cause your cervix to dilate or open up.  This may feel like a tightening of your belly and is firm to touch.  It is common towards the end of your pregnancy and is more noticeable during rest.  Keep yourself hydrated and if this persists, contact your doctor to see if you need to head into the hospital.


True labor:

True labor is when your uterus contracts strong enough to cause your cervix to dilate or open up.  When this occurs after you have reached 37 weeks, your baby is considered full term and the likelihood of your baby having complications from prematurity is quite low.  However, when labor occurs between 20 and 37 weeks of gestation, this is considered preterm or premature labor.  Depending on the gestational age of your baby, complications of prematurity can range from mild to severe.  The earlier your baby is delivered, the higher the chances for serious long-term health complications.

Labor can feel different for everyone and can feel different at different stages of labor.  These can feel like menstrual cramps, back pain, or on and off pelvic pressure.


When should you go to the hospital?

Labor Pain

  • Painful uterine contractions occurring every 3 to 5 minutes, lasting greater than 1-2 hours in duration.

  • If your pain goes away after rest or walking, you can continue to monitor labor at home.  You might have had Braxton Hicks contractions or are in early labor.

Leaking of amniotic fluid

  • A sudden gush of water or continuous trickling of fluid suggests that you have ruptured your bag of water.

  • If your fluid is greenish in coloration, it might be because your baby had a bowel movement in your uterus.

  • Head to the hospital no later than one hour.  Do not wait at home for your contractions to start.

Vaginal bleeding

  • Vaginal spotting either pink-tinged or brownish in coloration is an early sign of labor.  You may continue to monitor this at home.

  • If vaginal bleeding becomes heavy, like your period, or with any blood clots, head immediately to the hospital.

  • If you start to bleed and have a known placental abnormality, such as low-lying placenta, placental previa, or placental accrete, call 911 immediately to head to the hospital.

Baby is not moving or moving less than normal

  • If your baby is not moving or has significantly decreased movement, head to the hospital immediately.

  • Do NOT attempt to monitor your baby using home Doppler because this can lead to serious complications.

What to bring to the hospital?

Bring anything you think might make your stay more comfortable.  Here are some tips that may help:

  • License or passport

  • Insurance card

  • GBS report

  • Slippers

  • Contact lens supplies

  • A good camera for all those Kodak moments

  • Change of clothes for mom and baby on day of discharge

  • Baby car seat on day of discharge

  • Leave any valuables, large amount of cash, and electronics at home