Here’s how you know that this is truly labor – If you are having contractions that follow a pattern, becoming progressively stronger, lasting longer, and occurring closer together, this is labor!  When in doubt, think:


You are going to meet your baby soon!

Some of you might be wondering, “What is a contraction?  What does it feel like?”  I get this question in my childbirth classes a lot.  Your uterus is composed of vertical muscle and horizontal muscle.  When a contraction occurs, those muscles tense and shorten. This muscle contraction is involuntary and is set in motion in your brain.  

When your baby is ready for life outside of the womb, your pituitary gland releases oxytocin into your bloodstream.  Oxytocin hormone causes involuntary tightening or shortening of the uterine muscles.  Oxytocin causes a contraction and expulsion.  Your uterus is now pushing down on your baby to help your baby to descend toward the vaginal canal.  

This may feel like a tightening of your abdomen.  You might feel pressure on your pelvic floor.  Or you may experience a backache that comes and goes.  You may experience a backache that doesn’t go away and intensifies over time.  Some women feel cramps that feel exactly like menstrual cramps.  So, there can be a variety of sensations a mother-to-be will feel once labor has begun. Watch for a pattern of these signs.  


Most of the time, it’s best to ignore your labor as long as you can.  It will most definitely get your attention soon enough.  Do what you normally would do:  continue working, have lunch, eat dinner, take a walk, go to bed, etc.  Once you feel like these contractions are following a pattern and they are coming approximately 10 minutes apart, you can start to time them for about 30 minutes.  This allows you to view the pattern, note the time, and confirm that this is probably the real deal.  


You might be thinking, “Ignore my labor? What?  Don’t I need to start thinking about going to the hospital?”  The answer is, in most cases, “Not yet.  Soon enough, but not now”  The first 5 things you should do once you realize, “Yes, this is labor.” are:

  • Eat 
  • Drink 
  • Walk
  • Bath or Shower 
  • Sleep


  • Eating something will give you energy for the marathon of labor.  Try to eat something with protein in it.  Then try to continue to eat throughout the rest of your labor.  Keeping your blood sugar steady will give you the stamina you will need.  It will help you both mentally to stay focused and your uterus will also have the energy to do its job.  See suggestions in my blog post What To Drink And Eat During Labor
  1. Drink water.  Don’t just drink any water though.  Drink water with electrolytes in it.  While water itself is good, when loading up on fluids, making sure the body has a balance of electrolyte solutions can be crucial. Women can over-hydrate with standard waters and they and their babies have had low sodium and low calcium issues in the immediate postpartum period. You can find a recipe for “Labor-Ade” in my post What To Drink And Eat During Labor
  2. Take a walk.  Don’t try to do a power walk.  Just take a nice easy walk around your neighborhood, at the beach, at the park, or wherever you feel comfortable and are easily accessible. Try to walk several times throughout your labor. Eventually, you won’t want to walk but getting up and moving can not only make you feel good, physically and mentally, but it can also help your labor progress.  “Some studies have shown that women who walk or remain upright have shorter labors and more vaginal births.”
  3. Get in the bath or the shower.  Many moms have not taken a bath during their pregnancy, but a nice warm bath is very soothing and is also safe.  Just make sure the water is no hotter than 101 degrees. Consider a few drops of lavender, lemon grass, geranium, or whatever essential oil that makes you feel relaxed.  Young Living has a great essential oil called Gentle Baby.  The word is it’s incredibly relaxing.
  4. Sleep/Rest – After you do all of the above, the most important thing you can do in early labor is get some rest.  Labor is going to be both physically and mentally challenging when it progresses.  Think about how you cope with life in general when you’re tired, haven’t had enough sleep, or you’re hungry.  If you’re like me, you don’t cope well.  Even though you’re excited to meet your baby, you really must rest in early labor.  You will be so grateful that you did!

After your sleep or nap, it’s probably time to start the 5 things all over again.  But also, have your birth partner give you a massage, and practice relaxation techniques together.  Have something to eat and drink and go for a walk.  Hopefully, by now, things will be progressing and your contractions will be productive. 

Jimmy Conover

If you want to know when to leave for your birthplace, read my blog post 

When To Go To Your Birthplace? Use This Active Labor Formula To Decide

If you want to know more about normal labor and birth, sign up for a Bradley Method Childbirth class.