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Women's Health

Signs of labour

Am I really in labour? Information for patients and families

Come to the hospital

  • If it is your first pregnancy and your contractions are three minutes apart for one-half hour
  • If you have previously delivered, you will be advised by your doctor when to come to the hospital
  • If you are having difficulty relaxing between contractions
  • If your discharge is like a period flow or you pass blood clots
  • If the amniotic fluid changes to a green colour or a bright red flow

As your due date approaches, you will probably have mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety. Excitement, since you will finally see your baby. Anxiety, regarding the many unknowns:

  • How will I know I am in labour?
  • How will I cope once I am in labour?
  • Will I be a capable parent?

For some women, the signs of labour are very distinct, for others they are not. In this brochure, we will help you identify the signs of labour. Our further support while you are in the hospital will help you cope, making your birthing experience a memorable one.


Show is a pink bloody stained mucous that has filled the cervix during pregnancy. It may loosen and be expelled vaginally hours to days before you go into labour. Show is normal and does not need to be reported as long as the discharge is pink or bloody and sticky.

When you reach your due date and are undelivered, you may be examined to find out if your cervix is getting ready for labour. Spotting can be common, after an internal exam, as the cervix has been stimulated.

Ruptured membranes

Your baby is enclosed in a bag of waters. This bag of waters may break, before or during labour. It may come as a gush or as a small continuous trickle of fluid, which you cannot control. The colour of the fluid may range from clear to pink.

Many women leak a small amount of urine when they cough or sneeze. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether this is urine or amniotic fluid that is leaking. Remember, amniotic fluid is usually clear or pink and does not smell like urine.

After your membranes have ruptured, do not put anything into your vagina, because it may increase the chance of infection. You are advised to take showers instead of tub baths and to frequently change your sanitary pads.

You should note the time your waters break, how much fluid, the colour of the fluid, movement of the baby and call the Labour and Birth Unit with this information for further advice. Phone 416-864-5252.


Initially, contractions may feel similar to menstrual cramps. Aching may begin in your back, lower abdomen and thighs. This cramping will eventually become stronger, lasting for periods and coming at closer regular intervals. The frequency of contractions is timed from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction.

You may have contractions for several hours at a time, and then the contractions may stop. This is called false labour.

If you are not sure, call and ask for advice. It is better to feel confident and sure. Phone 416-864-5252.

These three signs of labour - show, contractions, ruptured membranes - may occur in any order. It is important to relax during the early stages of labour. Taking walks and showers with intermittent rest periods will help. Remember to drink plenty of fluids with light meals and snacks.

It is important that your baby continues to move as he or she did before you went into labour. If this changes, please call the unit for further advice.

If you have any further questions, doubts or fears call our Labour and Birth Unit. Call 416-864-5252. We will be happy to help you feel more confident.

Looking forward to seeing you!