Signs & Symptoms of Labor

This is a guide for you about the signs of true labor. If you have any of these signs before 36 weeks of pregnancy (nine months), please call your physician. If you do not have a private physician, call the Genesis NurseLine right away at (740) 455-4949 or 1-800-948-4949.


The uterus (womb), which is holding your baby, is a large muscle and when it tightens you may feel your tummy getting very hard. This hardening is called a contraction.

True Labor

  • Contractions occur at regular intervals lasting 60 seconds or longer.
  • Contractions get gradually closer together and stronger.
    There is increasing discomfort or pain.
  • Your cervix (the opening of the uterus) softens, shortens and dilates.

False Labor

  • Contractions are usually irregular.
  • Contractions do not get closer together. They may stop after an hour or so.
  • Discomfort or pain does not increase.
  • Your cervix does not change.

What to Do If You Think You are in Labor

  • Rest if possible on your left side.
  • Time your contractions with a watch. If one starts at 9:10 and the next one starts at 9:16, they are six minutes apart.
  • Do not eat. Clear liquids are permissible.
  • Call according to your doctor’s instructions.

Warning Signals

  • Possible Complications in Pregnancy

When I should Call

  • You have chills and fever with a temperature above 100 degrees F.
  • You experience prolonged nausea and vomiting.
  • You have a severe headache with blurred vision.
  • You have pain or burning during urination and/or more frequent urination.
  • You notice any sudden swelling of your face, hands or feet.
  • You plan to go to the hospital.

When to Go to the Hospital

  • There is any leakage of water from the vagina.
  • You have severe persistent pain in the abdomen or back.
  • You experience spotting or bleeding from the vagina.
  • Fainting

Instructions on Labor – When to Go to the Hospital

  • Any leakage of fluid (any color).
  • Bleeding (if you need to wear a pad or mini pad).
  • Contractions or persistent back pain.
  • Decreased fetal movement (use kick count).

Oh Baby!

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OB Pre-Registration

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