True Vs False Labor Detection

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on January 27, 2012

As pregnant women approach the end of the third trimester, there is one thought that is the foremost in their minds - "Will I know when it is the right time?" It is very common for women to go through false labor during pregnancy, which is probably why most first time mothers-to-be wonder if they will be able to identify True Vs False labor, when the time comes. However, even women who have been through labor before can tell you that it can be quite tricky, distinguishing between the two. Many women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions towards the end, as they are the body's way of getting prepared for delivery.


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These contractions are sporadic and can be compared to a tightening in the abdomen or the cramps that women experience when they are menstruating. They can result in serious pain and discomfort, not unlike the pain experience during labor and this is why women have trouble distinguishing between real and false labor. Although the chances are that you will know it when you are actually going through labor, given below are some tips that can tell you the differences between true versus false labor:

  • The timing of the contractions: Contractions felt during false labor are usually irregular and they do not get closer with time.

    In true labor the contractions are regular and are usually about 5 to 7 minutes apart. Each contraction lasts for about 30 to 60 seconds.
  • The area in which the pain is felt: During false labor the pain is usually felt in the front alone. True labor pain contractions usually start at the back and gradually move towards the front.
  • The strength of the contractions: During false labor, the contractions are normally weak in intensity and they do not get any stronger. However, if the contractions get stronger with time, you are probably in real labor. If you are actually in labor, you will be able to feel some vaginal pressure too.
  • The changes of position and hydration levels: During false labor, the contractions experienced could slow down, with changes in position, which includes walking, lying down or even sitting in a certain way. The amount of pain felt could even lessen when the intake of fluids in increased. But in true labor, positions do not affect the contractions and neither does the intake of fluid.

If you experience regular contractions that feel like they are real, before you complete 35 weeks, you should first try to rest and drink some water. If the contractions don't reduce, it is best to call your doctor.

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