How Can I Tell If It’s False Labor?

False labor is something that happens towards the end of a pregnancy, often within days of the due date. It’s different than Braxton Hicks contractions, and is often initially mistaken for the beginning of labor. One in five first time mums will experience false labor, and it is even more common in second time mums.

How can I tell if it’s false labor?
There are a number of differences between the contractions of false labor, and those of real labor:

  • False labor contractions vary in time – they do not become increasingly longer like the contractions of real labor
  • False labor contractions will ease if you change position
  • False labor contractions will ease if you walk around
  • False labor contractions may be felt in the abdomen – active labor pains tend to be more focused in the lower back
  • False labor contractions are irregular – real labor contractions happen at regular intervals

False labor often seems to occur at night. If you start experiencing contractions at night, get up and walk around. If the contractions ease off, it’s false labor. You could also try relaxing in a warm bath to ease contractions.

Does false labor do anything?

False labor is a sign that your body is starting to prepare for the birth. Your uterine muscles are practising their contractions for the main event. False labor is what happens before the first stage of labor. Before it can start dilating, your cervix must soften, shorten and shift position. False labor is believed to be part of this process.

Do not feel disheartened if what you thought was real labor turns out to be false labor. False labor is a sign that your body is preparing for labor, so you know that the birth of your baby will be soon. Get some rest, finish those last minute jobs, and enjoy your final few days before you become a mum.

When to call your healthcare provider

  • If the contractions are becoming stronger, longer and occurring at regular intervals, you should contact your healthcare provider.
  • If your waters have broken, or you have experienced a “show”, you should contact your healthcare provider.
  • If you are feeling worried that you may be in labor, contact your healthcare provider. Don’t feel embarrassed about contacting them unnecessarily, they will want to support you through the pregnancy – and this includes the panic that ensues during a bout of false labor contractions!

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.