Am I in Labor?

You're probably in labor if you feel regular, ongoing contractions every 10 minutes. The following chart can help you know if your labor has started.

Sign Pre-labor Labor
Contractions of the uterus Tend to stay about the same length.

Are usually not painful. If painful, the pain stays at the same level.

May last 30 to 90 seconds.

Are affected by changes in mother's activity and go away as the mother becomes more or less active.
Become longer, stronger, and closer together with time.

Accompanied by discomfort or pain in the abdomen.

Rarely last more than one minute in early labor.

May be affected by activity, but don't go away due to change in activity.

Occur with increasing backache and restlessness.
(blood-tinged vaginal discharge)
None A "bloody show" happens sometimes before or during early labor.
Intestinal symptoms None Frequent, soft bowel movements, often mistaken for diarrhea.
Changes in the cervix
(determined by health care provider)
No significant change in dilation of the cervix. Progressive thinning of the cervix, known as effacement.

Progressive opening of the cervix, known as dilation.

From the "Birth Day News" series.

Clinical review by Jane Dimer, MD
Group Health
Reviewed 03/01/2014