Are You Really in Labor? 7 Questions to Help You Know for Sure


7. Did your bag of waters break? If they broke with a pop or gush, the contractions that follow will almost certainly develop into progressive labor. With a slow leak, contractions may or may not lead anywhere.

You want to use your common sense, of course. If this is your second baby and you wake up with powerful contractions three minutes apart but only thirty seconds long, you don't want to hang around waiting for them to be a minute long. On the other hand, if you've been having contractions five minutes apart for three hours, but you can still keep doing whatever you were doing while you're having them, there's no need to rush off.

If you are not sure what's going on and it's during the day, you can drop by your doctor or midwife's office and check it out. At night or on the weekend, you can go to the hospital or birth center. Explain to the nurse or midwife that you would like to be checked but not admitted unless you are far enough along to warrant it. You may need to hang around for an hour or so and get rechecked to see if there has been any change.

And there you have it: a simple, nearly foolproof (nothing's perfect) method of ensuring that your baby is born where you intend it to be born and with much less likelihood of jumping the gun.


  • Kilpatrick SJ and Laros RK. Characteristics of normal labor. Obstet Gynecol 1989;74(1):85-87.
  • Simkin P, Whalley J, and Keppler A. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn. New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1991.
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