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Am I in labour?

Am I in labour?

Wondering if you’re in labour is very common for new mums towards the end of pregnancy. How can you tell if you’re already it’s pre-labour or if you’re in the first stage of labour? It can be very confusing indeed.

I spent the last 6 weeks of my first pregnancy thinking every twinge was an indicator labour was about to start, when it fact it was only Braxton Hicks. These are uncomfortable and minor contractions, but not labour. (Believe me!) Whenever I asked my own mum if I’d know when I was labour she’d nod wisely and say: “You’ll know.” She was right.

Here are 3 key ways to recognize that labour is starting:

A “show”

This is when the mucous plug that blocks the opening of your cervix comes away. It’s a jelly like substance and will break off in in small or large amounts, and is can be clear or pink or stained with blood. This mean labour could be either hours or days away.

Waters breaking.

This is when the amniotic sac surrounding your bub breaks and you will have a gush or a trickle of fluid. Make sure you contact your labour provider when this occurs and let them know whether the fluid is clear or has a colour of any kind.
Just so you know, it’s rare for this to happen before labour is fully established. In fact only ten percent of women have this as a sign labour is on its way.


There is a big difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and ‘real’ contractions. The main one is that you will probably be unable to speak during a ‘real’ contraction whereas Braxton Hicks, while painful and uncomfortable pass fairly quickly, and are usually fairly irregular. Either way, if you are unsure always ask your midwife or healthcare provider. It’s also worth timing the length and frequency of these as well. This will help you figure out if labour has begun.

Like childbirth itself, the experience of the early stages of labour will differ for everyone, but these are the most common signs that you will soon be delivering a baby.

Do you think you’ll know when you’re in labour? Or if you’ve had a bub before, what signs did you have labour was about to begin?

23 Member comments Post a reply

Avatar SarahBlogger

It's challenging to tell if you're in labour or pre-labour. Sarah looks at key ways to tell if labour is starting.

Read the full blog post: Am I in labour?

Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:08 PM

Avatar OC1246

Well...I am not quite textbook! I have had 2 babies, no show for either, no waters breaking for either and I could talk through cx right up until 2 hours before dd1s birth and 10mins up until dd2s birth!

For me, I knew I was in labour as the cx would be like a wave and it didn't go away when I changed position, whereas braxton hicks did. It was like having your hand squeezed, but your stomach and they didn't let go for a while..... With my dd2 I had prelabour for 4 weeks before hand. Nausea, gastro symptoms, very intense bh. But established labour was really quick, like less then 1/2 hour.

You just know!

Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:29 PM

Avatar Nat11

I always used to think the same thing" How do you know if your in labour". I was getting braxton hicks 12 weeks befor i went into labour. Braxton hicks are not as intense as Labour. I knew when I was in labour as it was like cramps but 100 times more intense. It is so very true when people say "you just know".

Posted 03 September 2011 - 01:54 AM

Avatar thetinyone

I could talk through my contractions the whole way through, but I four days of intense pre-labor, and only six hours of established labor, and I knew it was labor, even though for the early bit the hospital tried to tell me it wasn't happening, and sent me home lol

Posted 04 September 2011 - 09:55 PM

Avatar Jackie_Mutimer

well i will be 36 weeks tomorrow and this is my first baby I get a twinge hear or twn and suffer from braxton hicks alot but I always new i wasnt in labour. I thought i was at 33 weeks due to being in alot of pain never found out what it was I cant wait to experience it all

Posted 13 October 2011 - 12:31 AM

Avatar LanaE

if your in doubt get checked out, i went into labour at 29weeks thinking that i was having strong braxton hicks like a previous pregnancy, i waited 2 days to get checked out by which time it was too late to stop my labour

Posted 16 October 2011 - 11:35 AM

Avatar Evzyevzy-882

Once you have your baby check this link out! It really helped me soothe my first baby to sleep smile

Posted 18 October 2011 - 06:12 AM


Had a single pregnancy for my 1st bub. Waters broke 5 days before my due date, no pain until hrs later then all the fun started and it did not end until the following night when he finally arrived.

My 2nd pregnancy was twins. Had them at 39wks naturally. Found this much easier then the 1st. Had a show after being sent home from hospital and was having contractions for about 3wks beforehand. I think your mind & body distinguishes the difference between braxton hicks and labour as labour is much more intense.

Posted 20 October 2011 - 10:37 AM

Avatar Prudent_Badger

Yeah you just know.
Leading up to my time, I was reading everything to try and work it out. I never really had any Braxton Hicks ones either so was totally in the dark.
As with a few others, no show, no waters, and could talk through contractions - tho it was more like "this hurts" than "do you want a tea"

Oh also the length and frequency, mine were irregular, ranging from 5 to 11 minutes apart, but then I started bleeding. Went to hospital and gave birth 4 hours later.

Posted 01 November 2011 - 07:48 PM

Avatar Jenreid87

hi i am 38.2 weeks i havent been able to go to the toilet (#2) for about 2 days i get the urge to go but just cant. today i stared getting bad back cramps and noticed that when i try to go to the toilet it hurts more and there is a massive lump in my vaginal area almost like the head is coming out. could this be signs that i am in the early stages of labour?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 06:45 AM

Avatar Stephanie_Ewing

Im 33 weeks, this is my first pregnancy and for the last 4 days i have had nausea, soft/frequent bowel motions, pms symptoms including cramps and B&H which come on every night but will pass quickly. I am very curious to here anybodies thoughts as im so confused, am i having pre-labor signs? Does this mean ill be early? I get the feeling im not in labor yet but should be possibly packing my bag?? im still not due for another 7 weeks, so im very confused, please help !!

Posted 07 December 2011 - 12:37 AM

Avatar Xx_Ahren_Xx

My little boy arrived 4 days late, i was the same, every twinge, i piped up and thought, oooh is this it! But it most definitely is true when they say, you just know! Its a bit hard not to when your in that much pain you cant talk... If the symptoms aren't bad enough that your unsure if its labour beginning or not, then its probably not, of course this isn't the case for every one though. I was lucky to have my waters break and light contractions started about an hour after. The midwives are alot of help too, they will usually know whats going on. smile

Posted 07 December 2011 - 02:39 AM

Avatar Aniperham

hello I am 34 weeks pregnant with my first child (boy) iv had Braxton Hicks contractions they are very painful my lower back felt like it was going to snap in half and I felt the baby was becoming very heavy in my lower tummy I thought I was in labour as there where bits of fluid coming from my vagina turns out i wasn't its called Braxton Hicks contractions i was told i would definitely know if i where in labour as the pain is far worse then Braxton Hicks contractions but its only pain that will soon transform into a beautiful baby so it'll be worth it smile

Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:59 AM

Avatar happyhan

I am 37 and 1/2 weeks pregnant with my second child. My first baby was induced when I was 10 days overdue and he hadn't even engaged yet. I never had any pre-labour symptoms or anything at all. No show, no braxton hicks, nothing. After being induced my contractions started in earnest a couple of hours later and I defintitely knew it was on! This time around is a lot more confusing. 4 days ago I started to get a lot of reasonably painful contractions. Have been having what I assume are Braxton hicks for ages but these were more painful, although I know from experience nothing like the real thing! Also combined with dragging period-like pain, especially in my lower back, which was similar but less intense to what I remember labour being like last time. I thought this was perhaps the start of something but nothing seems to be happening. I was convinced I would go over again this time so it caught me by surprise to have things start so early but maybe it's nothing? Just confusing as its very different to the last time around. Has anyone had anything similar?

Posted 07 February 2012 - 08:14 AM

Avatar Jaffa_Wify

The erect posture causes the weight of the abdominal contents to thrust on the pelvic floor, a complex structure which must not only support this weight but allow three channels to pass through it, the urethra, the vagina and the rectum. The head and shoulders require a specific sequence of maneuvers to occur for the bony head and shoulders to pass through the bony ring of the pelvis. Thanks a lot.
<a href="">swedish</a>

Posted 01 March 2012 - 02:23 AM

Avatar Brittany27_440

i just turned 21 weeks today.. i think too early to have any contractions but my back is hurting me like hell and i feel so heavy even tho i dont have much of a bump, im terrified at the thought of childbirth and labour sounds even worse any tips or advice?

Posted 10 March 2012 - 04:03 AM

Avatar jkairua

I think Labour is different for everyone. When i was in labour with my 4th, i didnt know i was in labour, I forgot. When you have your first child it is very scary, you dont know what to expect and sometimes, everything that you read or have been told, is totally different to how you're feeling. I say listen to your body, you know what feels different, you've lived in it, with it for your whole life. So you know whats right REMEMBER- YOUR BODY WAS BUILT FOR THIS EXPERIENCE

Posted 01 April 2012 - 01:12 AM

Avatar Debbielee111

I think it is important to trust your own instincts, the hospital told me to wait to go in, as my contractions were only 7-10 mins apart, but only lasted around 10 seconds. I decided to go in anyway an hour later and was 8cm dilated! Lucky I did otherwise I may have had him in the car. My contractions only lasted 10-15 seconds right up to the end, but were quite close, about 2-3 mins apart, so not much of a break. So although the hospital and midwives know best - so do you sometimes, particularly when you are the one experiencing the pain.

Posted 08 April 2012 - 02:04 AM

Avatar happyhan

I went into hospital when my contractions were 3-4 mins apart and lasting about a minute and got sent home as I was only 2cm dilated! That was at 9pm at night and they told me I was a long way off giving birth so I wasn't expecting to go back that night. By 4:30am the pain was really getting too much so we rang the hospital again and asked if we should go in. They said we could if we wanted but they couldn't guarantee we wouldn't be sent home again! We went in anyway and by the time I got to hospital at about 5am my contractions were pretty much one on top of the other with no break in between but even then when they checked me I was only 4cm. Luckily they didn't send me home that time as my baby was born at 6:30 am! If we'd left it much later to go into hospital my baby would have been born in the car too!

Posted 09 April 2012 - 08:09 AM

Avatar FTADC2

with my first every time i went to the toilet it would be like i never went it would be clear that was on a sat and on tue i had him, my second i sat down and i broke my water and had her that day, you should just trust your body.

Posted 09 April 2012 - 05:18 PM

Avatar saoirse78

happyhan, I had pretty much the same as you, first baby was induced, and god awful labour of 24 hours... second time round I did't even know I was in labour until I decided to ring the hospital when my 'pains' were 20 mins apart, I had been having them for over a day and thought nothing of it, I had no other symptoms!!! the hosptial told me to come in within the hour, 45 mins later we wre rushing in the car with regular and long contractions, I was in the labour suite about ten mins, then my waters broke then I had my gir, deliverd the placenta and was holding my baby before I knew it.. No time for a drug and barely got an antibiotic in me for strph b.. Am not sure what to expect this time round but I do know that everyone and every labour is completely different and tif you're any bit worried, take yourself straight to the hospital or after hours clinic, it's better to be seen and sent home than someone tell you over the phone you're fine and then you end up with a complicated labour. Good luck for everyone that's having babies soon, it reallyis the best feeling in the world.. not matter if it's your first or fifth..

Posted 06 May 2012 - 02:16 AM

Avatar sarahdusty11

when i had my son 8 weeks ago i went into labour before the planned c section as he was breech. it felt like period pains and was painful but not intolerable i made it to 2cm dialated before going into theatre i had no show and my waters didnt break.

Posted 28 May 2012 - 02:52 PM

Avatar Amew90

I am almost 39 weeks and I have been feeling badly nauseous all day with some gastro symptoms, I have a tiny pain in my back and in front which is very low. I have never really experienced Braxton hicks and I am a full time dancer so I'm very fit, I have a feeling I might be in labour but I'm not sure if my aches are in my head. Should I call the hospital? I have heard all these horror stories of women not not having painful contractions and they don't even know there in labour, could this be me?

Posted 21 July 2012 - 08:56 PM

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