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Know The Signs And Stages of Labor So You Can Be Ready When It Happens

Here’s the thing about labor and delivery: if neither of you have gone through it before, it can be surprisingly difficult to figure out if labor has started. Eventually, she’ll go from “Uh … that felt weird” to “Oh, crap, that’s a contraction,” but by then you’re in the murky zone between early labor — which can last hours or even days — and stage 2 labor, when things start to get real. And you definitely want to be safe wherever the kid’s supposed to arrive (or at least en route), by the time things start getting real.

Before you grab the go-bag (and wind up playing solitaire on your phone while she groans for hours on end in the maternity ward), here are 5 signs to look for. Actually, 3 signs to look for and 2 things you want to avoid seeing if you can help it.

Breaking Water
This is somehow the best known and least understood sign of labor. Thanks to absurd film depictions, you probably think you’re going to need a mop and your wife a new pair of socks, but fortunately for everyone, reports of biblical flooding have been grossly exaggerated. In most cases, the baby’s head holds fluid back and reduces the deluge to a trickle. Very few women have their water break before they have regular contractions, but when her water does break, you can generally expect labor within 12 hours.

A Discharge
So, there’s this all-too-real thing called a mucous plug that needs to go away before your baby can arrive. Politely and quietly ask her, “Have you had any, um, discharge?” (as politely and quietly as that question can be asked, anyway). If she says yes, game on.

Your biggest duty, if and when your partner reports this particular sign of labor, is to stifle the urge to respond with, “Cha-cha-cha!” You’re already behind the ball considering you chuckled when you read “duty.” Now grab the bag.