How do I know I'm in labor?

One question many pregnant women ponder over is: How will I know when I'm in labor? And usually following that concern is: When should I go to the hospital? Fortunately the body provides various signs when labor is occurring, and these signs are usually fairly easy to detect.

Possible signs of labor

  • Backache
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Passing your mucus plug - the small amount of thickened mucus that has sealed your cervical canal over the past nine months. The plug may come out in a lump or the mucus can be tinged brown, pink or red. This can happen several days before labor.

Preliminary signs of labor

  • Non-progressing contractions - contractions that do not get stronger or closer together

Positive signs of labor

  • Progressing contractions (getting stronger and/or closer together)
  • Gush or leaking of amniotic fluid from the vagina

You should go to the Birth Care Center when

  • You have four or more contractions per hour before 36 weeks of your pregnancy
  • Contractions that are three to five minutes apart for an hour after 36 weeks for your first baby
  • If this is your second baby, come when contractions are five to eight minutes apart
  • Leaking of fluid
  • Bright red bleeding
  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Decrease in baby's movements
  • You have severe or persistent headaches, vision changes, intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen or abnormal swelling.
If you have any of the above symptoms please call (319) 369-7264 if you are not sure whether to come in or not.  Be sure to consider the weather and driving distance when heading to the Birth Care Center.

Stages of labor

  • First stage - dilation from 0 to 10 centimeters
  • Second stage - descent and birth of baby
  • Third stage - delivery of the placenta
  • Fourth stage - recovery/postpartum