How do you know if it's started? There's a sure sign; regular contractions. When the contractions get as frequent as three in ten minutes, it could be time to go.
Never mind that your estimated due date is in two weeks. Babies sometimes arrive two weeks early. By this stage, all mothers are hoping for this, with no exceptions. Of course, the baby might equally be two weeks late… But you’d rather forget this possibility when your belly feels like a lead weight, it’s impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position and you hardly remember what your feet look like.
But how do you know it’s really started? After all, minor pains are to be expected around this time. Your tummy contracts and becomes as hard as rock at regular intervals. But that’s probably only Braxton Hicks contractions.
In movies, labour always starts with the waters breaking. It looks dramatic, but in real life it’s usually a more gradual affair. The waters dribble rather than gush. But labour can also start before the waters break.
There’s only one sure sign that labour has started: contractions. Regular contractions that become progressively more intense and frequent. Sometimes they may subside, but they’ll start up again.
Now you know you’re in labour!
(The labour actually started a few weeks ago, when a hormone began to soften the cervix. Most women don't feel this happening, but some say that it feels like mild period pains or a slight aching in the back.)
Stay home as long as you feel comfortable
This is the real thing and it's starting to hurt. Now your cervix is ripening and it’s time to call your LMC.
But you can stay home as long as you feel comfortable. Many mums-to-be prefer staying at home, sitting in their own bath, lying on their own bed and drinking from their own mug. Others feel safer going into hospital as soon as they can.
Contractions every three minutes
When the contractions are happening regularly at the rate of about three every 10 minutes and you no longer want to sit around at home, your LMC will probably advice you to head to the hospital.
You're anxious you may not get there in time… But don’t worry – this very rarely happens.