Knowing When You are In Labor - UnityPoint Health

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Moline, Illinois 61265

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Muscatine, Iowa 52761

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Moline, Illinois 61265

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UnityPoint Clinic - Express (Bett Plex)

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Bettendorf, Iowa 52722

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How Do I Know I'm In Labor - Know The Signs

How Do I Know I'm in Labor?

One question that 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 
  • Soft bowel movements 
  • Nesting urge - a surge of energy with an urgency to make sure everything is ready for the baby


Preliminary signs of labor

  • Bloody show - as you get close to labor your body releases thick mucus that may be tinted brown, pink or red
  • 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 BirthPlace Center when:

  • Four or more contractions per hour before 37 weeks of your pregnancy
  • Contractions that are five minutes apart for an hour after 37 weeks for your first baby
  • If this is your second baby, come when contractions are eight minutes apart
  • Leaking of fluid
  • Bright red bleeding
  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Change in baby's movements
  • Be sure to consider the weather and driving distance when heading to the BirthPlace 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