It can be hard to tell when you are truly in labor. Contractions (belly tightening) are the main sign of labor. They last from 30 to 60 seconds and might feel like period cramps at first. False labor pains (called "Braxton Hicks" contractions) can happen anytime in pregnancy, but are more common toward the end. Here's how to tell if you're in true labor or false labor. If you're not sure, call your health care professional right away. True Signs of Labor Contractions that: happen 4 times per hour or more, and get closer together (for example, they come every 15 minutes, and then every 10 or 5 minutes, etc.) get stronger (more painful) as time goes on and do not get better with rest Pelvic pressure: It feels like the baby is pushing down in your vagina. A backache: Some lower back pain is common during pregnancy, but in labor it will be much stronger. Your water breaks: This can feel like a gush of fluid in your underpants, or a steady trickle. You do not need to have all symptoms to be in true labor. False Signs of Labor Contractions that: come less than 4 times an hour are not regular do not get stronger or more painful come and go depending on your position (if lying down, walking, sitting, etc.) Call Your Health Care Professional If: You think that you are in labor. Go to the ER If: You have signs of labor and are less than 37 weeks pregnant. You don't feel your baby moving. Your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart. You are bleeding. You have vision changes, a headache, difficulty breathing, or sudden or severe swelling. Back to Articles Related Articles Medical Care During Pregnancy The sooner in pregnancy good care begins, the better for the health of both moms and their babies. Here's what to expect. Read More Pregnancy & Newborn Center Advice and information for expectant and new parents. Read More I'm Pregnant. How Can I Avoid Having My Baby Early? Find out what the experts have to say. Read More Birth Plans The reality of labor and birth may seem extremely far off - but now's the time to start planning for your baby by creating a birth plan that details your wishes. Read More Inducing Labor Find out why doctors may induce labor if you're past your due date, how it may be done, and how it may affect you and your baby. Read More Dealing With Pain During Childbirth Learning all you can about childbirth pain is one of the best ways to help you deal with it when the time comes. Read More Epidurals Epidurals can make giving birth more calm, controlled, and comfortable. Find out more. Read More Cesarean Sections (C-Sections) Many babies are delivered via cesarean sections. Learn why and how C-sections are done. Read More Recovering From Delivery After giving birth, you'll notice you've changed somewhat - both physically and emotionally. Here's what to expect after labor and delivery. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.