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Signs of Labor

As your due date draws near, you will feel mild contractions now and then. These help your cervix begin to efface (thin out) and dilate (open up). The cervix must be 100 percent effaced and fully dilated (10 centimeters) before your baby can leave your uterus. Here are ways you can tell if your labor is the real thing.

False labor

  • Your upper and mid abdomen will tighten and relax. Discomfort is minor.
  • Contractions start and stop with no pattern. Time between them does not shorten.
  • Walking or other movements do not affect them. They might even slow down a bit.
  • A full bladder or sudden movement by you or your baby may set off contractions.
  • Your doctor or nurse midwife can see little to no change in your cervix.

True labor

  • You are likely to feel contractions in the back, pelvis and or lower abdomen. They often start in back and sweep around to the front.
  • Spacing is even. They become stronger, longer and closer together.
  • Contractions often get stronger when you walk or do other mild activities.
  • Your doctor or nurse midwife can see your cervix has begun to efface and dilate.

Concerns you should call about

Your baby should move often during the last few months. Call your doctor, midwife or Labor & Delivery if you notice these major changes:

  • Your baby moves much less than he or she has in recent days or weeks.
  • You cannot tell if your baby is moving at all.

Here are other reasons to get on the phone right away. Call your doctor, nurse midwife or Labor & Delivery at (608) 775-3167.

  • You see bright red blood that looks like the start of your period.
  • You gain a lot of weight all of a sudden.
  • Your face, arms, hands, legs or feet are much more swollen and puffy than ever before.
  • You have a severe headache that does not go away. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) gives you no relief.
  • You feel severe pain in your abdomen.
  • You feel severe pain under your rib cage on the right side.
  • Your vision gets dim or blurs. You see flashes of light or spots before your eyes.
  • You vomit often and cannot seem to stop.
  • You have chills or a fever of 101° F or higher.
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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