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False Labor

False Labor

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you may start noticing signs and feeling symptoms of false labor. They can set in one month or one day before you actually give birth - only time will tell. The question is how will you know when it's real - and when it's not?

Often, it can be difficult to tell whether you are in true labor or having false labor. Generally, your health care provider will be able to tell if you are in labor by checking your cervix to determine if it is effaced (thinned) and dilated (opened).

The following are some tips that may help you to distinguish true labor from false labor:

The Real Thing (True Labor)

  • After timing the contractions, you determine that they are coming consistently and getting closer together.
  • Each contraction is lasting anywhere from 30-70 seconds, and they are getting longer.
  • The contractions do not go away even if you change your level of activity.
  • Usually with true labor, the contractions have a radiating feeling in your lower back and upper abdomen.
  • The intensity of the contractions becomes greater as time progresses.
  • During a contraction, you are unable to talk to other people or laugh at a joke.

False Start (False Labor)

  • The contractions continue to be irregular or have a sporadic pattern.
  • There is no consistent length or intensity of contractions and no pattern develops.
  • No clear change or increase in the intensity of the contractions.
  • May feel the contraction lower in abdomen without the radiation feeling.
  • Changing activities affects the contractions.

Remember the list above includes the most common findings between true and false labor, but every woman and baby are different. You may still be unclear whether you are in true labor, and it is always better to call your health care provider for guidance.

Updated: 12/9/2012

Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


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