4 True Signs of Labor

Compare four signs of true labor with four signs of false labor

It is always a good idea to discuss signs of labor and what to do if you think you are in labor on your first prenatal visit.  This discussion can help eliminate confusion when the time arrives and be a great building block for clear communication with your care provider.  If you think you are in labor contact your care provider or visit your local hospital to be evaluated.     


 The cervix begins to open

This sign is called dilation.  Dilation occurs when the cervix begins to widen to begin the process of accommodating the baby as it moves toward the birth canal. Dilation is monitored carefully and is measured in centimeters from 0 to 10.  

The uterus tightens at relaxes at regular intervals 

This condition is know as contracting.  Time the contractions by keep a record for an hour of the start of each one.

Contractions:   Do not change with activity or rest  -  Last about 30-70 seconds - Increase in strength over time - Start in the back and move to the front   

 Discharge of the mucus plug

The mucus plug is expelled into the vagina allowing the baby to pass through the cervix during labor and birth. This is sometimes call show and is evidenced by pink, clear or slightly bloody vaginal discharge. 

Sensation of the baby in the pelvis

The sensation of the baby's head or other part of the anatomy in the pelvis is sometimes called lightening or engagement.  During a first pregnancy this can occur up to two weeks prior to birth. Engagement can occur at the time of labor for subsequent pregnancies. 

False Labor Contractions

Braxton-Hicks Contractions

False labor contractions sometimes called Braxton-Hicks contractions have different symptoms than true labor.                                  

Do not get closer together - Stop with rest or activity - Do not increase in strength - Felt only in the front - Come irregularly

Many times the only way to tell if you are in labor is to have a vaginal exam that checks the cervix for signs of labor. Visit your health care provider or go to the hospital to be evaluated.  Information you read on the internet is not a substitute for medical care.  Please do not hesitate to contact your care provider or go to the hospital for immediate assistance.