Are your contractions a sign that you are in labor, or are they another false alarm? Because false labor is a normal part of pregnancy, this question can be surprisingly tough to answer.
Kathleen Chastain, an OB Clinical Educator at AdventHealth Waterman, starts simple: Always trust your instincts and be proactive.
“The best advice I could give any mother is to trust your instincts and if you are at all concerned about anything related to your pregnancy, come to the hospital and let us check you out,” she says. A visit to the hospital, at any hour of the day or night, can answer your questions about labor.
“We would rather check someone multiple times to make sure everything is alright, than have someone not come in to be checked and there be a problem,” Chastain says.
On May 3rd, the hospital will premiere an all-new space for women and children. Even with a great option close to home, not knowing whether the contractions you are having are leading to the main event, the birth of your baby, can provoke anxiety — especially in first-time mothers.
There are signs moms can look for to determine if it is true labor or false labor.
Timing Is Everything
Not all contractions are equal. One method to tell false labor from real labor is to time the contractions (time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the second).
In false labor, contractions tend to occur at irregular, random intervals. In real labor, contractions come at regular intervals. In addition, the time between contractions with real labor will shorten, though this doesn’t happen with false labor. During real labor the intensity of the contractions will increase, while with false labor the intensity usually does not change.
When contractions are five minutes apart or less for over an hour, moms should come to the hospital. Some mothers find contraction timing apps useful to time their contractions.
If you’re not sure if you are in labor or not and want to be checked out, you do not need to call your doctor, Chastain says. Just come to the hospital and we will call your doctor once you get here and we evaluate you.
What to Expect
It might feel awkward to visit the hospital when you’re not sure labor is real, but the nurses and doctors there are happy to help you find out, said Chastain, herself a delivery nurse.
When you arrive to labor and delivery a fetal monitor will be applied to make sure your baby is healthy and to monitor your contractions. The nurse or doctor will check your cervix to see if it has dilated. Once it is determined your baby is healthy, we often have you walk for an hour and then recheck your cervix. If you are in labor your cervix will be dilated more, but if your cervix is unchanged you are not in labor and can go home.
Another benefit of keeping an eye on your contractions is to prevent premature birth.
For mothers less than 35 weeks into a pregnancy, frequent contractions — every 10 minutes — can be a sign to come to the hospital.
“If you’re less than 35 weeks pregnant and you’re having contractions every 10 minutes, drink water and if they continue, come to the hospital to be seen,” Chastain says. When you get to the hospital the nurses and doctors will try to stop the contractions to prevent you from delivering preterm.
Frequent contractions aren’t the only reason to come in to the hospital. If you have any of the following, come to the labor and delivery unit right away:
- Bright red vaginal bleeding
- Your water breaks
- Decreased baby movements
- Severe constant abdominal pain
“In most cases, the sooner we can intervene, the better the chance for a good outcome,” Chastain says.
Moms and families in the Lake County area have a new option for their maternity care. AdventHealth Waterman’s $70 million expansion and renovation includes a state-of-the-art 24-bed women and children’s unit.
Located on the second floor of a new patient tower, the center offers a warm environment and personalized attention to moms in the Lake County area. AdventHealth believes in guiding and supporting women through pregnancy, birth and for years afterward.