After a few hours, days or weeks of pre-labor contractions, your body will begin to have rhythmic contractions that seem “different” to you. After a few hours you may realize that the contractions are becoming longer and stronger, and they are happening closer together. These are all signs that you have moved from pre-labor into early labor.
For many women, early labor does not have a distinct start, but progresses almost unnoticed from pre-labor contractions. You will find yourself excitedly wondering, “Could this be it? Am I in labor?” You will probably be chatty, wanting to talk with whomever is around as you excitedly go about your day. You will still be hungry, still be thirsty, still be modest and probably don’t need to pay too much attention to your contractions, although you will want to.
Some women find that early labor begins as they are preparing for bed. It is perfectly fine to sleep through early labor if you are tired or if it is a time you normally sleep. You will probably be woken up in the middle of the night or early morning with contractions to intense to sleep through and can begin to work from there, but there is no fear of sleeping through the birth of your child if labor begins at night and you can settle yourself enough to sleep.
In early labor, most women feel excited. They wonder “could this be it?” At the same time, their behavior displays this nervous excitement. Some women find that they feel restless, a little hungry and want to talk to someone.
Many women find that this is when they experience bloody show and lose their mucus plug. You may also experience a runny nose and an increased need to urinate. Your body will empty itself through several bowel movements that seem like a mild diarrhea.
At this point contractions are generally less than 10 minutes apart and last 45-60 seconds long. Contractions will get stronger, closer together and longer with time. These contractions may be moderate to strong, and might feel like pressure in the pelvis, menstrual cramping or a dull backache. At this point, most women are more comfortable moving through their contractions.
The length of time you spend in early labor will depend on how prepared you body has been made by pre-labor contractions, the position of your baby and many other factors that we simply don’t know about yet. Regardless of how long it takes, you will find that your contractions will continue to get progressively stronger, longer and closer together until you are in Active Labor.