Does labor come on suddenly or gradually? — The Bump
3rd Trimester

Does labor come on suddenly or gradually?

I am 38ish weeks and I was just curious if labor for any of you guys came on suddenly? So for example, out of nowhere WHAM contractions started and went from there. 

Or, did your labor come on gradually? So, did you have a few contractions here and there leading up to the day.

I am just curious because at this point, I don't think I have had a real contraction (everyone tells me I would KNOW if I have had a contraction) so I was just curious if they come on suddenly or gradually. Any insight is appreciated! 

Re: Does labor come on suddenly or gradually?

  • My labor with DD was sudden and quick. 
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  • My labor was pretty sudden and contractions started at less then 5 min apart. It varies a lot per person.
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  • My labor with DD was quick all together. DS took his time. It's a crap shoot.


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  • My labor started with some bleeding so my ob told me to head to the hospital. I was having contractions but couldn't feel them. They sent me home to rest since I was only about 2 cm dilated. As soon as we got home, I could feel them full force occurring very consistently and then increasing in frequency.
    This time, I've been feeling sporatic, mild contractions for the past week or so. I'm only 1 cm dilated.
    But like pps said, everybody is different. It could be gradual or it could be sudden.
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  • The first time it started slow and built over hours and hours. The second time it hit hard and fast. I never had a contractions more than 4 minutes apart.

  • It just depends.
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  • It depends from what point you are considering it labor. I had mild, irregular contractions starting on a Saturday, then continued through until "active" labor the following Wed afternoon. From there, I guess it was fast. Went in at 10p Wed night, arrived as 7cm, had LO at 415a next a.m. And only 25 mins pushing. FTM
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  • With my first, I had BH a couple of times in the lead-up (irregular timed, never over more than about 3 hours) but when the real thing started, I knew! 
    I was woken up by a contraction that folded me in half involuntarily and they were 5 minutes apart at the time, 4 and a half by the time I got to the hospital some 40-45 minutes later then baby popped out not long after.


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  • Any labor that I was aware of started 8 hours before DS was born. I'm sure something had to be going on before that, but I woke up at 6am for work and felt so e cramping. By 8 am it was definitely contractions and DS was born at 2:30 by c-section because he was breech and I was already at 9cm. From what I can gather, this isn't the norm, though I don't think there really is a norm for any of it can ever be considered normal except that you are going to get a baby out one way or another.
  • I had irregular contractions that weren't painful starting on Friday. Thursday morning I work up at 2:30 am with contractions that hurt, but not badly. My water broke 30 minutes later. DS was born at 4:49 pm that afternoon.


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  • Mine started fast. Contractions were never more than five minutes apart and about two hours after the first, I was dilated to 5 already. Too bad she was born until 24 hours later.
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  • For my previous births when I go into labor its very fast- my births range from 2-4 hours (4 hours was my first birth, 2 hours was my last).  I have med-free, non-induced births.  I literally go from feeling normal to having heaving cramping/contractions (my midwife does not do internals, rarely even during labor so I have no clue as to my dilatation).  You can always talk with your mother/aunts to see what their births were like.  Obviously its no guarantee and there are a lot of factors that come into play.  We were suspicious that I would have a fast first birth because my mother's first was only 10 hours but me (her second) was 6.  So obviously I birth faster.  Also, if babies are on your right side they tend to be very fast births (but in saying that my babies are always on my left). 
  • I had measurable contractions for two weeks before I was actually in labor. We were monitored numerous times because of complications. The contractions weren't productive- baby didn't move into position and my cervix didn't change. On a few occasions, my BH were time table and didn't go away in the bathtub, after eating or drinking, etc.

    My actual labor started with a contraction around 6 AM. It was very different from the BH. I knew it was "real" at that time.
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  • Sudden and quick for me.  3 hours total with my son starting at 4 mins apart. and 13 mins with my daughter starting 2 mins apart (thank god i was in hosp already or i would be delivered in the car).  really worried about this baby.
  • I think the textbook case that you're learn about in a childbirth class describes a gradual onset - a few contractions an hour that you initially aren't sure are contractions because the sensation is rather minor. Then, as the hours pass, they get more frequent and the intensity ramps up so you know what you're dealing with is definitely labor. 

    From what I can tell, not many women have a "textbook" experience though - either your water breaks first and then several hours later labor gets started or it comes on suddenly out of nowhere.

    For me, weeks and weeks of promodal labor (actual contractions, not BH, but no dilation) then a very sudden onset of actual labor with xct 2-3 minutes apart out of nowhere. As in, I woke up to it - had been sleeping with no noticeable contractions immediately prior. 
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  • I had Light contractions like 2 days before and the dr did a sweep the next day and then bam! They started soo strong and that night I was in an early stage of labor and I had the baby the next day.

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  • My labor was very sudden. I didn't know I was in labor at first, I thought I just had a stomach ache. Within 2 hours, I was at the hospital and dilated to 7cm. The doctor said I, apparently, have a weak cervix and that's possibly why things went so quickly.
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  • I had super strong BH for a while and was having extremely strong ones right before my water broke and then it was instant painful contractions and within an hour they were about 3 minutes apart. I had an emergency c section so I am not sure how they would have progressed. 

    I think this is one of those everyone and every pregnancy is different things. 
  • I lost my mucus plug one morning, had mild contractions all day, went to hospital that night, had the baby the next day in the afternoon.
  • Mine came on gradually over a period of hours. At first I thought I was having gas pains but they became more regular and intense as the hours passed. I went to the hospital after about 6 hours of having contractions at home and was dilated 5 cm at that time. My baby was born after another 6 hours of laboring at the hospital. 
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  • AnnaSangsokpaAnnaSangsokpa member
    edited May 2014
    I believe it can go either way. Each pregnancy is different. With my first pregnancy, it built up after my water broke.
    I'm expecting my second due in early August. So I'm excited to experience pregnancy all over again!
  • melcassmelcass member
    With my first my water broke at 39 weeks, I was not having contractions so was given pitocin, it was a 16 hour labor. My second pregnancy was twins, was induced at 37 weeks, it was a 7 hour labor. My third pregnancy I had my membranes sweeped twice. The night before I was to be induced 39 weeks 5 days my water broke. Contractions started immediately at 2 min apart, had baby boy 3 hours later.
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  • Mine were gradual and off questionable. They hurt like hell but felt like they decreased for a few hours before they started getting worse. Lots of back pain

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  • Mine started very slowly with mild, erratic contractions. I thought it was Braxton hicks as I've been hospitalized twice before with them. I didn't even take my stuff because I was sure I was going to be home in a few hours. Apparently I was contracting every 2 minutes but only feeling every 4th or 5th one.
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  • My water seemed to break without any contractions leading up to them. I remember waking up to use the bathroom, water broke in the toilet (lucky me) and then I suddenly had contractions, and they were one on top of the other in no time... My labor progressed so fast I felt like I never had the chance to really adapt to them. DS was out in 6 hours. This time around I anticipate it to be even quicker. 
     
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  • I had no pains until my water broke at home and I had DD about 3 hours later. It was super fast and crazy.
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  • drpaynedrpayne member
    Mine are like 0 to 60 out of nowhere.  Contractions start long and close together. 
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