If you are having strong, steady contractions that are about 5 minutes apart, and each one lasts for approximately 1 minute, and this has all been going on for an hour, you might be in labor! Think of it as the “5-1-1” rule.
When you are pregnant with your first baby, it is sometimes hard to know if the contractions you are feeling are true labor contractions versus early or false labor. Timing your contractions can help you figure this out. Another sign you may be in labor or that labor will be starting soon is if you feel a large gush of fluid that looks like water—this may be your bag of waters breaking.
If you are having contractions that are consistent with the 5-1-1 rule or you think your water broke, you should check in with your doctor or midwife. And if you aren’t sure, it’s okay to call and ask. Labor can present differently, and you should never sit at home worried. While other signs, like increased mucous discharge or pelvic pressure, are important to note, they tend not to be specific for timing when labor will begin.
If you are still pre-term, you should definitely let your provider know if you are feeling any contractions that don’t get better with rest or drinking fluids—you should not wait for the 5-1-1 rule!
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, December 2018