Prelabor is the time before actual labor when the body prepares for childbirth.
Every day this month your body is preparing for labor so that when the moment actually arrives, your body is ready. Prelabor signals that you're in the getting-ready-for-labor stage include:
- Lightening—the baby's head drops down into the pelvis.
- An increase in vaginal discharge and/or brownish or blood-tinged mucus discharge.
- An increase in the number and intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions
- A nesting instinct that makes you start cleaning closets and organizing your kitchen. If you find yourself filled with energy and driven to clean, primal instincts are pushing you to get your home ready for the new family member.
Birth contractions are muscle spasms of the uterus that will eventually help push the baby through the birth canal.
False labor is contractions that make you think you are in real labor when you're not. They are a false alarm.
On the TV sitcoms, the pregnant woman always grabs her big belly with a look of wide-eyed surprise and announces, "It's time." Unfortunately, labor doesn't usually come on like that. You might spend a lot of time this month timing contractions, grabbing your suitcase, and then stopping short, realizing the contractions have stopped—false labor!
False labor feels just like the real thing. That's why thousands of pregnant women who rush to the hospital are sent home again to wait just a little longer. This is embarrassing, naturally (especially if you've woken your spouse, your parents, and your physician to announce the news), but it's nothing new. When contractions start you can tell, usually, that real labor has not begun if you answer "yes" to these four questions:
- Do the contractions stay the same in intensity (not getting worse)?
- Do the contractions come in uneven intervals (two minutes apart, then seven minutes apart, then four minutes apart, for example)?
- Is the pain in your lower abdomen rather than in your lower back?
- Do the contractions stop when you move around or change position?
If you're saying "yes," you're not in real labor yet. When real labor contractions begin, you will find that you cannot walk or talk through them. That's a good time to start packing.