Am I in labor?

For women at term deciding when to go the hospital is not always easy. Sometimes it will seem like labor and next thing you know you have been sent back home. Many times these frustrations are unavoidable. It can be difficult to tell whether labor is true or false labor.

Your goal should be to get to the hospital when labor is advanced enough that your cervix will be dilating. If you are observed for several hours and your cervix doesn't change, you may be sedated and sent back home to wait. If this happens it doesn't mean you're not in early labor, and it certainly doesn't mean you're not in pain. It probably means you are still in prodromal labor, and that more time is needed to enter active phase labor.

In general, 5:1:1 is an easy rule to remember. Your contractions should be 5 minutes apart (or closer), lasting for 1 minute, for 1 hour of timing. If you make all three of these criteria you will probably be in early labor. Don't worry too much about not getting there in time. Most women will have contractions as close as 2 minutes apart as they enter the advanced stages of labor.

If your water breaks, well, the 5:1:1 rule doesn't apply. Within a reasonable period of time you should go to the hospital. What is a reasonable period of time? Within a few hours. Don't stay at home for long periods of time waiting for contractions. If you aren't sure what to do, call Dr. Daum, M.D. He will help you decide how to proceed.

Dr. Paul Daum, M.D. Provides Complete OB/GYN Services

from adolescence, to childbirth, through menopause and beyond