10 Women on How They Knew They Were Going Into Labor for Real

Oct 1, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. ET
Pregnant woman going to hospital
Image: Cecilia Cartner/Studio Parris Wakefield/Getty Images. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

In the final weeks of my pregnancy (which stretched five excruciating days past my due date), I spent many nights bathed in the blue glow of my phone as I combed the internet for early signs of labor. Every twinge, every cramp, every slightly “off” feeling could be foreshadowing childbirth, I thought. By that point, my flattened bladder, enormous belly and reflux-ravaged esophagus had already conspired to keep me awake all night, so I found myself going further down internet rabbit holes, eventually plumbing the depths of double-digit-numbered pages of eight-year-old message boards for anecdotes. By familiarizing myself with every woman on the internet’s labor experience, surely I’d learn how to differentiate between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real deal, right? (Here’s where a narrator would cut in to say, “She wouldn’t.”)

For those of you who have found yourself in a similar state of late-night self-diagnosing, we’ve rounded up signs of labor from 10 women. As you might imagine, the early signs of labor are as varied as the moms experiencing them. Some of them are straight out of the movies (I encountered a surprising number of water-breaking stories considering the stat I’d always heard was that it happens to only 10 to 15 percent of women), while others were less textbook. As for me, I remained in denial about my increasingly close-together contractions until I finally puked from the pain, which ultimately tipped me off that I was truly in labor.

So rest your googling fingers for a moment (because pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome is real, y’all) and take note of these possible labor signs.

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The poop that wasn't

“I thought I had to poop in the middle of the night. False alarm. But then the process started again 20 minutes later, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I bet I know what this is!’” — Shanan, Arizona

The pee that wasn't

“I woke up to go pee. After sitting on the toilet for a good 10 minutes — I just kept leaning forward and 'peeing' to empty my bladder — I realized that maybe this was more than peeing. I screamed for my husband to get my phone and googled 'water break.' Being a stupid first-time mom, I thought it was a huge gush of water when it broke. Sure enough, Google said you can have a slow trickle when it breaks, so we grabbed a beach towel and headed to the hospital.” — Lisa, Ohio

Breaking wind & water

“I was 36 weeks and two days pregnant, thinking the baby was a long way off. I tucked into bed expecting another restless night of sleep. Just before 1 a.m., I woke up and felt that normal gut-bloating-with-gas sensation and decided to take a nice fart in bed. Well, this was not a normal fart. This one was juicy. As you may know, bladder control is limited in the almost-childbearing days, so I thought I had just peed a bit. I had no contractions or anything. Then, the waterworks kept coming. I called the midwife and told her what was up. To confirm water breaking, she had me cough and try not to let liquid out. Fail. Water broken.” — Laura, Washington

Back contractions doctors ignored

“Five days before my baby was supposed to arrive, I started getting these insane shots of pain through my back. I was really confused because they weren't your typical front, uterine-area contractions… The doctor on call told me I was not going into labor and that when I had cramping in the front, that meant I was going into labor. I tried going to sleep, but the pain was so bad. I kept having to get up every five minutes to brace myself for the pain, which I found out was actually contractions. I was having back labor despite my son being in the 'proper position.' My dear friend who is a nurse explained this to me over the phone at 3 a.m. They don't teach you that in a lot of the birthing classes, at least they didn't for me. Apparently, if you are having something you think are contractions but in your back, all the same rules apply.” — Jillian, Ohio

The bloody show on the couch

“My contractions started being exactly every four minutes and every eight minutes, alternating. Then I got blood on the couch. That was the moment I was sure that I was in labor and that the baby was coming and there was no turning back. ” — Kat, New York

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The falling-out baby?!

“My round ligament pain was so bad that I had to sit down a lot, but I felt like I was sitting on my baby’s head. I felt like she was going to fall out. I taught a spin class and had to keep stopping because I had so much pelvic and ligament pain. I thought I was just really pregnant. My class was pretty sure I was going into labor. I went to the doctor two hours after that for a scheduled checkup. She told me that the baby was super-low and asked how I was sitting at all. I wasn’t effaced or dilated, so we scheduled an induction for [days later]… That night, after I put my son to bed, I was in too much pain to get up. Then my water broke! That’s when the contractions actually began.” — Cathy, Washington

The classic water break

“I got up from a nap, took one step towards the bathroom, and it was like a water balloon had ruptured. Thirty-six hours and lots of drugs later, my baby decided to make her appearance.” — Jeannie, New Jersey

Contractions that fooled a second-time mom

“With my first child, it was pretty clear-cut that I was going into labor because my water broke in the middle of the night — I swear there was an audible ‘pop!’ just like in the movies. With my second child, I figured it would be the same thing. One night, about four weeks before Baby 2's due date, I started getting cramps. I figured it was just Braxton Hicks... I went to bed and slept through the night, occasionally awakened by a contraction but not thinking much of it. In the morning, I dropped Baby 1 off at day care. That's when I noticed that the cramps were getting stronger and seemed to be coming regularly. So I timed it, and they were about four minutes apart…. I didn't think I was actually in labor, but I dutifully called my OB, gave my stats, and the nurse was like, ‘You need to come in right away.’ [When we got to the hospital,] we found out I was 7 centimeters dilated. I apparently had no idea I was in labor even though I was in quite a lot of pain.” — Vicky, Virginia

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A mucus plug at the movies

“I lost my mucus plug — yeah, gross, I know, sorry — at the start of the music in the opening to Star Wars: The Force Awakens on a Sunday night…. I waited until the next morning to call my midwife, but I genuinely thought my water had broken…. Regular contractions started the following Thursday around 4 p.m…. My husband still wishes that we'd actually gone into something more than prodromal labor at that point because he'd like to say we have a Star Wars baby. ” — Eva, Virginia

Hurling & a hasty hospital trip

“I thought my water had broken but wasn't sure. When I called my midwife, she expressed doubt, thinking maybe it was the mucus plug. It wasn't really until I was throwing up that I knew we needed to get to the hospital. We arrived at 11:30 a.m., and our baby was born at 1 p.m.!” — Katie, California

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