How To Know If You’re In Labor: Real Stories From 15 Moms

how to know if you're in labor I’ve come to the conclusion that the sentence “How To Know If You’re In Labor” has become one of my most googled sentences lately. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t up late some nights reading through countless articles, and taking those dumb quizzes to determine if I might be in labor.

A few days ago, I actually thought I was going to be in labor. I had a few major contractions in the morning, followed by some less mild contractions that were about 14 minutes apart. Once I got home and layed down on the couch, they seemed to go away. It was such an awkward experience, and I’m here 4 days later, and still pregnant.

I decided to reach out to my Instagram audience, and collect stories from real moms about how they know when they were in labor. I hope this post will be helpful to you when you’re expecting baby, and have no idea when to go into the hospital. Heck, it’s gotta be better than those strange forums and quizzes you will find from googling at 3 am!


@meghanhunter- My water broke in the middle of a store with my second baby! Felt like, I peed my pants. With my first, they had to break my water at the hospital- so just super heavy and consistent (key-consistent!) cramping. I spotted blood a day or two before I went into labor. The “bloody show”, so gross. It wasn’t a ton, but definitely there. My doctor stripped my membranes with both of my pregnancies too, so that helped put me into labor.

@cn_wright- My contractions woke me up in the middle of the night. Everyone says contractions feel like bad period cramps, but mine weren’t anything like that so at 2:45 am I was literally googling “What do contractions feel like?” and “How To Know If You’re In Labor”. I lost my mucus plug after I got up to pee, which finally convinced me that I might be having a baby. My son was born 12 hours later.

@etheilemann- I delivered two babies and doubted myself both times whether or not I was in real labor. Early labor felt like menstrual cramps that never really went away. It wasn’t until they became much stronger (had to take a break from walking or talking) and closer together that I believed it was the real thing. One thing I learned was to trust my gut. The doctor told me to wait until the contractions were consistently five minutes apart for an hour before I went to the hospital. My contractions were all over the place… 5 minutes then 12 minutes, and so on, but the pain was already very intense. If I had waited any longer I probably would have had my daughter in the car!

@eahartley923- First baby I was induced, and got an epidural before things got too crazy. This time, I had contractions around dinner time, and they were not too bad. Around 11:30 pm or midnight they got pretty regular, and uncomfortable. I got to the point around 12:30 I could not hold still laying down, and pretty much wanted to cry, and they lasted over a minute. Some were longer. They went from 10 minutes apart at midnight, down to 6 or so apart around 2 am. It hurt so bad by then and knew it was happening so we went in, and I was an 8. By the time they got me in my room, I was at a 9! So I went through transition at home pretty much! I live one minute from the hospital, so that was good! But man it was like the worst period cramps of my life, and the back pain was also just terrible.

@sarahthaman- I was throwing up, and it was obvious my contractions were getting longer, stronger, and closer together! The other signs my doc told me to look for were crap, but my doula said “you’ll know” and “you will NOT all of the sudden have a baby at home” which was the thing that had me questioning things as they progressed. She was right- it was very obvious when things were picking up, and it was go time. Nothing made them subside, and the intensity increased significantly!

@tonners48- I started to have intense contractions in the front and back that lingered and were consistent and regular. They would come and go at regular intervals, and my back would seize up as well as the front. Also, I couldn’t walk when I had them. I would have to stop and breathe it out, and then continue.

@sheridan_slater- I was 36 weeks, and my water broke (at home, thanks God!). I was so early, and I wasn’t having contractions so I didn’t think or believe it was actually happening. I was afraid maybe I just peed. Well after I called the on-call I finally accepted it, and we packed a quick bag and took off. Good thing because once we got in the car the contractions hit like crazy, and I about died on the way in. Got there in time, thank goodness, and sure enough I was in major labor by the time I got to my room. Lesson learned- your water can actually break, and pack your bags/get the car seat installed early!

@fitmommer- With my first, my water broke at 2 am, and contractions started immediately. He was born 13 hours later. With my second, I started having un-comfy contractions at 38 weeks, but they would come and go. This lasted A WEEK. The night before 39 weeks I started having painful contractions at 8 pm, but they weren’t regular at all. I went to sleep, and dozed for awhile. Around 2:30 am I woke up, and they were more painful, and closer together. We called my mother in law around 3:15 am. By the time all was aid and done, it was 4 am, and they were quite painful. I got to the hospital at 4:28 am, and my daughter was born at 4:41 am. I was crowning when I got to the delivery room. My contractions never got regular, but they were close together and painful.

@anadsmall- I woke up with my second child with “bloody show” which I think is when you lose your mucus plug with some bleeding. Menstrual cramps soon followed. I did call my MD to make sure I shouldn’t rush to the hospital. I timed my contractions which kept getting increasingly worse, and more frequent. When they were 10-12 mins apart, but consistent, I knew it was time. I had my baby 5 hours later!

@laurlaur1129- I knew I was in labor when I woke up in the middle of the night to period cramps-stronger than what I had been feeling leading up to labor, and after a quick shower, and when I started timing then, I threw up… that was a key sign for me. We headed to the hospital, and contractions got stronger and my water broke there. Woke up at 2:30 am with the cramps, arrived at the hospital by 5:30 am, and had our baby at 12:34 pm.

@jem81- The evening before I went into labor with our first child I was having back pain, and had a really difficult time sleeping. I woke up a time or two to use the restroom. The last time around 3:30 am I realized that the pain wasn’t constant, but coming and going. Thankfully we attended a child birth class, and I remembered that having regular pain in your back could be a sign of labor. I called the advice nurse, and she told me to start timing them and when I should go into the hospital. Unfortunately I continued to be in back labor for the duration of my labor. I was induced with our second, and once the contractions began they were so much different, and more bearable.

@saraplaneandsimple- Both times I went into labor I was woken up by a painful contraction and they they kept coming and I could not go back to sleep, or get comfortable lying down… so I knew it was the beginning. The first time I decided to go to the hospital after about 17 hrs of contractions that were bearable, but pretty regular because I wanted to be checked. They gave me a walking pass for 2 hrs, and then admitted me at 4 cm at which point the contractions were much more intense. The second time…I used a contraction timer app which was helpful, but that labor was pretty fast. I went through transition at home, and was unable to use the app, and pretty out of my mind. My husband insisted we go to the hospital… I was still wondering if we were going too soon. My goal was to stay home as long as possible in order to go natural. Once we got there I was feeling a lot of pressure with contractions, and and was 9.5 cm. My water broke once in L&D, and he was born about 15 min after arriving. If it were up to me that time, he may have been born at home or in the car. I’m 26 weeks with my 3rd, and just thankful we live close to the hospital. Overall I would say once your contractions are regular, 3-5 min apart, and lasting over a minute each is a good time to go (or what your MD recommends) … a contraction timer app comes in handy for that.

@raisinggrace_-I was induced on my due date because my husband was on mid-tour leave from a military deployment, and had to go back a week later. I went in at about 2cm/40%, so obviously not truly ready to deliver a baby! I spent 27 hours getting the highest doses of pitocin allowed by my hospital, having “intense” (on the monitor) but completely ineffective contractions. My stomach tightened up, but I had almost no pain, and only minor discomfort. I progressed to about 3.5 cm/70%. We actually almost left. The midwife said it looked like baby girl wanted to stay put! But I asked for one more 3-hour round of pitocin. A few minutes after it started, my water broke while I was using the bathroom. And then, I learned what REAL, effective contractions felt like! The intensity….wow… it absolutely skyrocketed. I had wanted an unmedicated birth (besides the pitocin), which was outside of my control, but immediately started to question myself. By hour 28, I was begging for pain relief. By hour 29 I was confined to the bed, and all my energy was focused on getting through the next minute. I told my husband I needed an epidural, because based on my progress, over the previous day the pain wasn’t going to end soon. When the nurse came in, I also told her I had to poop pretty badly (TMI? But true,) could she help me? Turns out I had progressed from 3.5 cm to 10 cm in two hours! Pushing–wow–best feeling! People always told me to trust my instincts, and they were right. It turned out that the 40 mins I spent pushing a 14″ head out were probably the least painful, because I was working with each contraction! About 3 hours after my water broke, baby girl made her appearance!

@caseyanderson- I woke up to a gush of water at 3:45 am. My husband was finishing a graveyard shift, so I didn’t want to jump the gun if it wasn’t actually my water breaking. I went to the bathroom, and tried to figure out if it was pee or not, but I really couldn’t tell so I threw on a pad, and went back to bed. I laid down for about 5 minutes when I felt another gush and knew it was my water breaking. Shortly after, I started having mildly painful contractions. While I waited for my husband to get home my water kept leaking and my contractions got more painful and closer together. By the time we got to the hospital there was no doubt I was in labor because my contractions were super painful, and literally right on top of another. Baby girl came 7 hours after my water broke!

@erin_emery- I was induced with my first two boys, so with my 3rd, born in April, I felt like a first time mom! I had no idea what to expect. I had about 5 days of contractions that would get really strong, and fizzle out– which was exhausting and confusing. On a Thursday I lost my plug, and Saturday the contractions were a little more consistent all day. Just as I had fallen asleep, my water started leaking. I only knew it was my water because it would “gush” every time I coughed.



Thank you to all of the sweet mamas who sent in your story! If your story didn’t make the list, that’s because I shared the first 15 I got! You all are the best, and I hope that this post helps other mamas who are sitting up at night googling “How To Know If You’re In Labor”

Cheers to speedy deliveries, and healthy babies!


Lee Anne


  1. Sheridan on August 22, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    SO fun to read!! Thanks for this post. I love reading birth stories! Cant wait for baby girl to get here!

    • Lee Anne on September 6, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!
      Lee Anne

  2. Mandy Aquino on August 22, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you!!! This FTM learned a lot. What I found most interesting is that your contractions can be inconsistent and still be in labor. I know most doctors (mine included) preach the 5-1-1 rule but it’s not always that way. I think I’m just going to go off them being painful and frequent.

    Thanks Lee Anne!

    • Lee Anne on August 25, 2017 at 6:47 am

      Yes, I think painful and frequent is key!!

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