A Beginner's Guide to Labor

Labor

One word can stir up so many emotions. Excitement. Fear. Dread. Joy. Maybe even a combination of all of the above. 

The start of labor can be a scary prospect for a new family. How will you know for sure when it's really time? Will it hurt? How long will it take? 

Even if you've had a baby before, each labor is different. 

So how can you quell some of the fear?

Know what to look for.

There are many ways labor can start, so it can help to know what to look for. 

1. Water breaking

Your water can break. This happens when the amniotic sac bursts. Unlike the movies where it seems EVERYONE's water breaks as the first sign, only around 1 out of 10 births starts with this as the first sign. Also not like the movies, there may not be a huge gush. For a lot of people, there is just a slow trickle of fluid. 

 

2. Contractions

Having contractions is a common way for labor to start. For some people, it can be difficult to determine initially if contractions are just more Braxton Hicks or if it is true labor. Real labor contractions generally get longer, stronger, and closer together; Braxton Hicks contractions do not follow a pattern. 

 

3. Loss of the Mucous Plug

The mucous plug is a globby collection of mucous that seals the cervix closed during pregnancy. Once dilation begins, this plug is loosened and may fall out. It is important to know that not everyone sees this sign, and some people begin to lose bits of the plug days or even weeks before the birth. The mucous plug can look like a white, clear, or blood-tinged string or glob of mucous. 

 

4. Bloody Show

This sign can go hand in hand with loss of the mucous plug. As the cervix dilates and pulls away from the plug, there can be a little bleeding. This can appear as spotting and should not be heavy or active bleeding. Again, this is a sign some people do not see until they are far into labor or near delivery. 

 

Once you know you are in labor, you can progress in many ways.

No labor is the same; your labor can be hours or even days long. Everyone is different. What can help is to have a trained labor companion with you. A doula is trained for all different types of birth and can help you stay as comfortable as possible. You deserve your best birth; let us know how we can best support you!