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Labor and delivery: What to expect

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Toward the end of your pregnancy you may notice something called Braxton-Hicks contractions. These are also called false labor pains.

If you feel the muscles in your uterus tighten involuntarily, but it happens irregularly, these are Braxton-Hicks. Sometimes they’re painless, other times, they can hurt.

These contractions tend to come in the afternoon or nighttime and are more common when women have been very busy during the day.

Most pregnancies last 37-42 weeks, according to the March of Dimes. Real labor contractions come regularly, tend to move from the back to the lower abdomen, and can last for as long as a minute. Over time, they get stronger and closer together.

Here are some signs you’re close to labor:

  • You feel the baby lower in your belly.
  • You have increased vaginal discharge, which could be clear, pink or slightly bloody.
  • Your water “breaks,” or amniotic fluid leaks or flows from your vagina.

When to call your medical provider:

  • Your contractions are very painful, worrisome or come before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You have contractions between 5 and 10 minutes apart.
  • Your water breaks.
  • You experience vagina bleeding.
  • You can no longer walk or talk during contractions.
  • You’re worried about your health or your baby’s health.

Inducing labor:

Inducing labor means to use medicine or a medical procedure that causes you to go into labor earlier than you naturally would. Unless it’s medically necessary, it’s best to go into labor naturally. Here’s why:

  • Inducing labor may not work. It can double your chance of needing a Caesarean section.
  • More health problems occur for babies born before 39 weeks than those born later.
  • Babies born early have a higher chance of learning and behavioral problems.
  • Breathing problems are more likely to develop in babies born early.


March of Dimes
Growth You Can’t See

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