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False vs True Labor

As you move closer to your delivery time (37 weeks and after) you may notice occasional bouts of contractions. Some of these may last for several hours and occur at regular intervals.

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It can be confusing to decide if this is "real labor" A couple of trips to L&D may end with you heading back home because your cervix is not dilated.

One difference between true and false labor is that false labor (sometimes called Braxton-Hicks contractions) will not dilate your cervix. The contractions may come at regular intervals but they will not increase in strength or get closer together. For instance, they may be 5 minutes apart for hours but not change your cervix at all.

Don't worry if you can’t tell the difference; you will generally know real labor when it starts.

Signs of false labor
  • Contractions will feel better while walking
  • Contractions stay the same strength
  • Contractions stay the same interval for long periods of time
  • False labor is felt generally only in the front
  • False labor does not have bloody show associated with it
Signs of true labor
  • Contractions will increase in strength while you are walking
  • Contractions will get stronger in intensity over time
  • Contractions will gradually become closer together
  • Contractions will start in your back and move to the front
  • Bloody show may be present with true labor

Time your contractions for the start of one to the start of the next and keep a list of each one. Write down how long each contraction lasts. This will help you know if it is time to go to the hospital.