Last week was particularly difficult. My beloved godmother and close friend passed away at a young age (only early 60’s!) from cancer. In lesser and hardly comparable news, I’m not sleeping hardly at all; J has erupted into regular night wakings again; and the in-laws were in town this past weekend. Needless to say, I think stress propelled me into “false” labor on Friday night.
I put the term false in quotation marks because “false” labor does not mean you are not really having contractions at regular intervals, it means they don’t progress toward the end goal of effacement and dilation. It also means you’d better have your hospital bag packed and a car seat ready because when you’re almost 37 weeks pregnant and your baby has “dropped,” you know neither the day nor the hour, to quote the Good Book.
1) Signs of pre-labor.
There’s the usual gambit. Discuss what the signs are with your healthcare provider. Think things like: mucus plug loss, feeling your baby “drop” or “lighten,” regular contractions that increase in length, intensity, and interval. Even these don’t necessarily mean that you are in a labor state that will progress. If you experience any of these, contact your doula and midwife/doctor. They will probably tell you to take a bath, drink water, lay down, and keep them posted. Check out this comprehensive article on pre-labor signs and the last month of pregnancy, here.
I had about five hours of regular 5 minute interval contractions, but they never became longer, stronger, or closer together. And after an hour long bath wherein they actually became less frequent (about 7 mins apart), they softened up. I didn’t feel like I was in labor. After you’ve gone through it once, you cannot forget the feeling of intensity that slowly (or in some people’s cases, quickly) builds up.
2) Signs for concern.
Extremely sharp pain, lots of blood loss, blacking out, your water totally breaks (as in, oh-am-I-peeing-myself?-no-way-this-is-too-much-water), or you cease to feel the normal movements of your child: call your midwife or doctor right away. In fact, have that number taped up in your house somewhere conspicuous, or programed into your phone. Or both. Or programmed into everyone’s phone necessary (partner, spouse, mother, etc).
3) If you do go to the hospital/birth center . . . .
And you don’t progress and get sent home, don’t feel bad! We had this experience when I was pregnant with J. We went in the weekend before he was born (on a Wednesday), and the nurse was so unkind. She practically sneered when she informed me I had experienced false labor. It made me feel really stupid and duped by my body. We just got a bad egg–I love L&D nurses! But when you’re a first time parent, and you have contractions for hours that increase in intensity, it’s okay to go in and get checked to see how your dilation is coming along. Better to know than to stress out at home.