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The most common sign of labor is going to be contractions. But not all contractions mean labor. We're typically looking for a pattern – a pattern of contractions that are occurring more often, they're getting more intense, and they're lasting over a period of time.
So a good rule of thumb is 4-1-1. Contractions that are happening about every four minutes, each contraction itself lasting about one minute from start to finish,
and a pattern that's lasted for about one hour. That's going to give you reason to check in with your doctor and see if he or she thinks it's time for you to head to the hospital.
Your doctor's also going to want to know if your water has broken. Because even if you're not having a single contraction, that event starts a time clock ticking that will often dictate certain management plans, so you'll need to bring your doctor into the loop.
Most doctors do not need to know if you've passed your mucus plug, because it is not a reliable indicator of anything else to come, so you can usually just let some time pass and see if other things transpire and then you can call your doctor with that update as well.