You're 41 weeks pregnant and after some cramping and possible sighting of your mucous plug earlier in the day, you start having fairly regular, noticeable contractions. Not necessarily can't-talk-through contractions, but contractions that make you think, "Could this be the beginning of labor?"
This scenario sounds a lot like early labor. In early labor, your contractions begin to take on a pattern and can be anywhere from 6-20 minutes apart. If you are truly in labor, you will notice that your contractions are getting longer, stronger, and closer together. And while your contractions may be following a good pattern, early labor can be one of the longest phases of labor. As you near the end of your pregnancy, it's good to have an arsenal of tips and tricks to cope with early labor.
Ignore it. Impossible as it may seem, your best bet is to ignore what's going on for as long as possible and go about your day. You'll know when it's time to really do something.
Rest. Rest. Rest. If you can move past the excitement, move past the jitters, and if contractions are not too intense, use this time to rest. Labor is hard work, and you will need your energy for what's ahead.
Time contractions -- and then stop. You could spend a lot of time and energy timing contractions. And while the process is sometimes encouraging and reassuring, it can also be frustrating and cause anxiety. So if it helps to know where you are, time your contractions. If it's making you crazy, stop.
Find distractions.Early labor can be a great time to watch a movie (or get one started), meet up with a friend, read a book, fold baby clothes, or (re)pack your hospital bag. Anything you can do to get your mind off of your labor to pass the time.
Eat and drink normally.In early labor, you will most likely still feel like eating. Take advantage of this, as later on in labor, you may not feel like eating, but will still need the energy. Also, remember to stay hydrated.
Take a bath. A warm bath can be relaxing and soothing. It also has been known to slow down early labor contractions, or stop your contractions altogether, which would indicate that you may not yet be in labor.
Ask for help. Even though you are in early labor, it's never to early to start using comfort measures. Have your partner or a friend or family member massage your back or feet. It will feel great, take your mind off of worrying about labor, and may allow you to relax more, which could facilitate the process of labor.
Consider staying home.If your place of birth is at a hospital or birth center, consider staying home while you're in early labor. Laboring at home for longer will allow you the freedom and comfort that your own surroundings provide. If you arrive to your place of birth too early, you may be sent home. If you are admitted, you may experience unnecessary interventions due to hospital policies and because you're "on the clock." If you would feel better if you were closer to your place of birth, consider going, but labor in the lobby or at a nearby store or restaurant. That way, you'll be close by when things kick into high gear, without having to be admitted earlier on.