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Am I In Labour?

Dr TC Tan | Published on February 2, 2023

You’re in your third trimester and as your due date draws closer, you are likely to be getting more impatient to meet your baby. The last few days can feel like they’re dragging, especially when well-wishing friends and relatives keep asking if you have had your baby yet! At this stage some women have a surge of energy, which is sometimes referred to as the nesting instinct, while others struggle to keep to their daily routine as their body continues to expand.

During this time, you’re bound to wonder: when will labour start? What does it feel like? How can I tell if I’m actually in labour? There are a few signs that mean you should head straight to the hospital.

You Feel Painful Contractions in Your Womb

One of the most obvious and common indications that you’re going into labour are painful contractions that come in waves. Some women describe these contractions to be similar to period cramps, only more intense. You may have already experienced these on a small scale in the last few weeks (these “false contractions” are known as Braxton Hicks). In the early stages of labour, the contractions may last between 10 and 60 seconds before subsiding and returning every 5 to 30 minutes, accompanied by moderate pain. When the pain starts to intensify and the contractions become more frequent, you’ve advanced into established labour.

Keep in mind that painless Braxton Hicks contractions are not signs of labour and will soon ease. On the other hand, if the pain in your womb seems to be continuous and severe, it could be a sign of complications; notify your doctor immediately.

Your Water Broke

You may feel a slow trickle or a gush of warm fluid running down your thighs. The lack of ammonia smell means it’s not urine — your water bag has broken! It is possible that you won’t feel contractions before your waters break but you must go to the hospital regardless. Waters breaking before contractions start will increase the risk of infection.

You Notice A “Show”

If you pass a plug of mucus, you may be in early labour. The mucus was originally in your cervix, and its release means your body is getting ready for labour, which could be hours or days away. The mucus, also known as a “show”, can be pink or brown in colour, accompanied by a small amount of blood. However, if you notice any significant vaginal bleeding, head to the hospital immediately as this could indicate complications.

Once you’re admitted to the hospital you will be checked by the doctor on duty to see how far your cervix has dilated.

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