When does the labor start?

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Philippe Gloaguen
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Many women wonder how they realize that the moment has really come and how it is possible to distinguish real contractions from "fake" ones. Do not be afraid, when the time comes, you will no longer have doubts.



The pre-expulsive pains that you now feel at irregular intervals prepare you for childbirth and anticipate part of the labor: they press the baby down on the mouth of the uterus making it softer, so that it is then able to open more easily.

Shortly before childbirth, pre-expulsive labor pains can become stronger and raise up the doubt that it is the real ones. What a disappointment when you arrive at the hospital and are sent home.



  • Pre-expulsive labor pains are irregular. They often rage especially during the night; the best thing to do is get up and walk a little. If the pain goes away you can be sure it was a false alarm.

  • When you're having contractions, take a warm bath. The "fake" labor pains will pass, those of the heat birth will become even stronger.

  • Unlike pre-expulsive labor pains, labor pains are rhythmic and always follow the same trend: they start slowly, reach a peak and decrease again. The intervals between individual contractions become shorter and shorter, while the pains themselves last longer and longer. A woman in pain stops involuntarily: she remains standing, cannot speak and seeks support by trying to breathe deeply to ease the pain.

  • At first, the pains that open the mouth of the uterus last between 30 and 40 seconds, then they become more intense and last up to a minute, while the pauses between one and the other become shorter and shorter. If labor pains occur at eight-minute intervals, women who have already had a baby can go to the hospital. On the other hand, those in their first child can wait a little longer, even if it is impossible to say exactly how much. It is generally sufficient to leave when the labor pains follow one another at five-minute intervals, obviously on the condition that the hospital is not very far away.


  • An obvious sign of imminent birth: mucus mixed with blood in the panties. The blood comes from the vessels of the mouth of the uterus which begins to open.

  • Also the loss of amniotic fluid it can signal that the time for childbirth has come.


What if the expected date of delivery arrives but nothing happens?

You do not have to worry if you pass the time limit for the birth and nothing has happened: only one in four children is born on the set date. However, the wait now becomes even more difficult.

It may help to have something planned for this week. However, the important thing is, in case of exceeding the deadline, to be visited regularly. The doctor checks that the baby is still receiving enough oxygen: the cardiotographer (CTG) is activated and the baby's heartbeat is heard through the womb. If the heartbeat slows down, there is not enough oxygen. Doctors also check with an ultrasound if the baby is healthy and if the placenta is still functioning properly.

If the placenta begins to detach, the uterus does not get enough nutrients and the baby is in danger. The doctor also examines the amniotic fluid, which must be clear and transparent. From the amniotic fluid it is also possible to understand if the baby's lungs are "mature". Ten days after the deadline has expired, it is possible to think about the artificial induction of childbirth.


The child now hardly grows in height but gains weight: 20 to 30 grams per day. In this way, an energy reserve is created for the first days after birth, which will also serve to deal with the change in temperature compared to the 37 degrees of the amniotic fluid. Through the bloodstream from the placenta, all of the mother's immune agents are passed on to the baby.

It is in the last few weeks that he receives many of the important antibodies that will protect him in the first weeks and months of life, until he is able to produce them himself. The little one will now calm down a lot compared to the past weeks: he has too little room to move. But don't worry, there is no risk of being too tight: the amniotic fluid acts as a pillow protecting the baby from pressure.


Read also: What causes labor pains

Updated on 01.05.2022

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  • birth
  • hospital
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  • labor
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