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For those of you with visions of either giving birth in your car or making repeated "false alarm" trips to the hospital or birth center, this checklist is for you.
To begin with, forget about TV portrayals of labor, where pregnant women suddenly look startled, clutch their bellies, and gasp, "This is it!"
You'll have time to figure things out. The average labor lasts nine hours in first-time mothers and six-and-a-half in women laboring again -- and that's from the onset of regular, painful contractions, occurring five to three minutes apart. Most women have several, if not many, additional hours from the time the first vague twinges begin and this pattern setting in.
While you're waiting to see what develops, here are seven guidelines that will help you distinguish between prelabor contractions and the real McCoy.
Watch Video: It is time yet?
5. Has the pattern changed over time? Labor contractions will get longer, stronger, and closer together over time. Often contractions go along at one level and then intensify over a fairly short time period, say, an hour or two, as labor shifts gears from early to active phase. Prelabor contractions can sometimes be quite regular over several hours, but the pattern stays the same.
6. Does changing your activity affect them? Prelabor contractions usually peter out if you get them while you are active and switch to something relaxing such as taking a warm bath. Likewise, if you have been resting and get up and move around, they generally go away. You may be able to get labor contractions to back off somewhat, but with rare exceptions, nothing makes them go away short of having the baby.