Real signs of impending birth
Real signs that your baby is coming
Labour pains come at regular intervals and with increasing intensity over a long period of time. To help tell whether you are in real labour use the 4-1-1 rule: if contractions are four minutes apart, last for about one minute and recur for one hour or more, the chances are you are in labour. Other signs are your water breaking or mucus plug coming out. Your midwife or doctor can confirm and measure changes in your cervix via pelvic examination. If the cervix is dilating, your baby is on the way.
Pre-labour, or Braxton Hicks contractions, are common from the 16th week of pregnancy onwards. These ‘practice contractions’ are irregular and not usually painful. They do not form any sort of pattern, nor do they last very long or dilate the cervix. Among first-time moms, they often go unnoticed or are written off as cramps or muscle spasms.
How much time do I have until my baby comes?
If you think you are in labour, take a moment to assess your pain levels and the intensity of the contractions. Stay at home and take a relaxing bath. There is no need to rush to the hospital just yet. If this is your first birth, bear in mind that first-time labours tend to progress more slowly. The early labour stage can last anywhere from two hours to more than a day. However, listen to your body and do what you feel you need to do.
Every pregnancy and onset of labour is different. Contact your hospital, health professional or midwife for advice.