Quoting Brandi Proffer:" im a couple days from being 38 weeks.. this is my first pregnancy. I went to the hospital with contractions ... [snip!] ... you been through this? how long did it take for you to go into actual labor? any suggestions to get this ball rolling again? "
This is likely "real labor" - but "real labor" isn't always a clean cut thing - you can have it come & go a bit, take it as a rest period & try to sleep as much as you can - it could be on & raring to go again ANY time, so you are best off if you sleep as much as you can. It's exhausting.
With both my kids I labored for 72+ hrs straight - but mine never hit apoint where they were less intense & although 1-3.5 is slow progresss, it doesn't mean you aren't in labor. I was at 4 cm for about 18 hrs ish & my contractions never slowed down. I chose to go home because I live close & didn't want to be stuck there on monitors & unable to eat, etc...but I was definitely in labor - just a slow progressing one.