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This is probably the most asked question from birth clients. I am having cramping, is this labour? I am pooping a lot, is this labour? I think this is bloody show, has labour started? I think I lost my mucous plug (please for the love of the universe, do not Goggle image mucous plug!!), this must be labour. Most of these indicators are great signs that your body is preparing for labour, making the necessary changes for labour, that labour is getting close. But that might mean tomorrow or in 10 days! So my answer is typically.....maybe!
You've waited so long to meet your baby, you are anxious to know for SURE that this indicator is it. And it might be, but it also might not. I am a Doula, not a Midwife or an OB, I don't perform clinical tasks, I cannot check the position, softness or dilation of your cervix. But all these indicators mean that labour is coming, sooner rather than later. But here is what I know for sure. When you are in active labour, you will KNOW it! It will stop you in your tracks. Early labour contractions are annoying, but typically you will able to go with your day, eat, move, talk, etc. Active labour contractions will be different, you will unquestionably know the difference, they will be longer, stronger and closer together. You won't be able to concentration on other things when you have active labour contractions. They will get increasingly more intense, and even more so with transition.
If you first time parents need a goal to focus on, try this...5-1-1. Contractions that are five minutes apart, lasting for at least one minute and have been occurring for at least one hour. This is a good time to call your provider for next steps. Second + pregnant folx should probably head to the hospital or call your Midwife a little before the full hour as these labours tend to move faster.
Trust your body, trust that you will know that this is the real deal, because you and your body will know!