Knowing When It’s Just a False Alarm: Here’s How to Differentiate Between True and False Labor during Pregnancy

Knowing When It's Just a False Alarm: Here's How to Differentiate Between True and False Labor during Pregnancy

Nature usually prepares the women for her baby’s imminent birth by means of false labor, also referred to as Braxton Hicks, prodromal labor, or pre-labor. False labor can leave the woman feeling a bit sheepish especially if they have woken everyone up in the middle of the night for a mad dash to a health facility. This is quite understandable because most women do not know how to differentiate between true and false labor.

This article offers a guide to help you recognize whether what you are undergoing is a true labor or just the prodromal one.

Braxton Hicks

Before experiencing true contractions, many women undergo Braxton Hicks contractions, which is also known as false labor. These kinds of contractions are usually irregular and are not spaced closer together. The key to identifying actual labor is understanding how the patterns of contraction work.

The false labor contractions can start during the second or third trimester and is usually a toning up of the uterus in readiness for the actual labor. The Braxton Hicks can range from a painless tightening to a jolting which sends you off your chair. These contractions can also increase in their frequency as you approach the day of actual labor.

There are various factors that could lead to false labor. Urinary tract infections and dehydration, as well as fatigue and exhaustion,  can result in uncomfortable contractions. Make sure you are able to check with a health practitioner or a caregiver if you believe the contractions are signs of premature labor.

False V. True Labor

Here is how you can differentiate between false and true labor:

  1. Comparing the frequency of the contractions makes it possible for you to differentiate the two. False labor contractions are often irregular while the true labor contractions take place at regular intervals. They can last for more than a minute and their intensity increases with time.
  2. The change in contractions is dependent on your movement. This allows you to differentiate the two. False labor contractions may occur when you rest or take a walk and may change when a position is altered. On the other hand, true labor contractions continue irrespective of change in position or movement.
  3. In general, false labor contractions are weak while the true labor contractions are stronger and increase in their intensity as time goes by.
  4. It is possible to differentiate the two based on the areas affected by pain. For instance, false labor contractions cause minor or even insignificant pain in the pelvis or front part of the abdomen. On the other hand, true labor pain is usually intensive in nature. These contractions start from areas of the lower back before moving to the front region of the abdomen. You also need to note that this pain may begin in the abdomen and move towards the back.

What Should You Do?

If you are uncertain what you are experiencing is false or true labor, it is imperative to consult a gynecologist. Your doctor will be in a position to identify the actual nature of your contractions. You can also visit to get all the assistance you need with your pregnancy, as well as monitor the progress of your baby.


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