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True Labor/False Labor

Often, pregnant women think they are experiencing actual labor and immediately go to the hospital only to find that it was a false alarm and they were actually experiencing false labor.

So how can you tell the difference? Here are a few clues: 

True Labor

False Labor

Contractions* occur in a regular pattern

Contractions have no pattern

Contractions get stronger and stronger

Intensity of the contractions does not change

Contractions get closer and closer

Spacing between contractions does not change

Discomfort in back and/or lower abdomen

Discomfort usually occurs in the lower abdomen

Contractions do not stop with walking

Contractions usually disappear with walking

Cervix dilates (opens up)

Cervix does not dilate

*True labor contractions will be 2-3 minutes apart for an hour or more.

Dealing with false labor. If you are experiencing false labor, there are a few methods to use to ease the discomfort, such as:

  • Get up and walk around the room
  • Drink a glass of warm milk or cool juice
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Change the position you’re in by lying down or just sitting for a period of time
  • Take a warm, not hot, shower
  • Take deep breaths to relax your muscles
  • Sit in a rocking chair or use a birthing ball to move your body to-and-fro
  • Place a warm water bottle against your stomach

It’s possible you still won’t be sure if you’re experiencing true labor even after becoming familiar with the signs of labor. In some cases, women have painful contractions for days with no cervical changes. Other pregnant women may feel only a backache or a little pressure.

If you are bleeding or are fewer than 36 weeks pregnant and experiencing consistent contractions, you should visit your doctor immediately or call 9-1-1 to be taken to the nearest hospital.