Some changes take place in the body as signs of labor in the weeks, hours and days before labor. You may or may not notice some of these signs before labor begins, as they can be subtle. Don't hesitate to call your health care provider if you wonder whether you're in labor. And if you have any of the following signs of labor before 36 weeks - especially if they're accompanied by vaginal spotting - see your health care provider for an exam.
False labor can occur just at the time when labor is expected to start. Don't be upset or embarrassed if you react by thinking labor is beginning. Sometimes the difference can only be determined by a vaginal exam-changes in your cervix signal the onset of true, active labor. It's also good to monitor and identify contractions as Braxton-Hicks contraction or as contractions of a true labor.
Here's the difference:
Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor pains, are irregular cramps that occur in the last several weeks before your due date. During a Braxton-Hicks contraction your abdomen may get hard and then soft again, and might even become uncomfortable or painful. But usually these types of false contractions are painless as your uterus contracts and relaxes in preparation for true labor. Eventually, Braxton Hicks contractions will be replaced by the real thing.
The best way to know if you're experiencing true labor contractions is to time the length of the contractions. Time how long each cramping period lasts and the length of time in between each contraction. Keep a record for an hour. During true labor ...
Be on the lookout for more serious signs of a pregnancy complication and call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately if you experience:
Once you reach the third trimester, you should talk to your doctor or midwife about labor and delivery. Learn your options for pain relief. Find out how to reach her if you go into labor. And ask her at what point in labor should you call. As you plan for the birth, these preparations can help assure that your delivery goes smoothly. We'll cover pain management techniques in the delivery room in the next section.
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