Difference Between False and True Labor

False labor has been associated with the Braxton Hicks contractions, which during the last few weeks of pregnancy become more rhythmic and appearing much more frequently as true labor approaches. The period when the Braxton Hicks contractions appear is called the pre-labor, the period of time in which the cervix is gradually stretched and softened in preparation for the delivery.

When Braxton Hicks contractions begin to arrive more frequently, causing pain in the lower abdomen, this phase is described as "false labor". From the outside, the fact that this is not true labor can be determined when the contractions are irregular over time and eventually stop, while the cervix remains unchanged.

True labor is characterized by very uncomfortable or painful contractions, but these are regular and rhythmic, increasing until the labor stage is reached. In many countries, doctors advise women to go to the maternity ward once their contractions last for about a minute every 10 or 15 minutes.

At the maternity ward, a woman will be asked about how much time there is between contractions, examining the cervix internally to discover if a change has occurred. When true labor is close, the cervix starts to open and thinning out, moving into line with the birth canal, and the woman has to be prepared to give birth.

Feeling some contractions does not mean that your labor has begun yet. There are signs and symptoms that help you to identify the difference between false and true labor, just pay attention to them.

False labor is characterized by Braxton Hicks contractions occurring at irregular intervals, sometimes with some periods of regularity, but never becoming any stronger, and the intervals between contractions remain always the same. Braxton Hicks may go away after changing your activity, and the cervix has not begun to dilate or thin out (efface).

During false labor, membranes or the so-called “bag of waters” is not ruptured, and relaxation, sedation, or any other change in your activity changes the pattern of such contractions, or stops them completely.

True labor begins with contractions occurring at regular intervals that become stronger as the intervals between them gradually shorten. Sometimes contractions may start in the back and from there radiate around to the abdomen, while you may feel back pain and/or menstrual-type cramping instead of a “real” contraction.

Contractions during true labor will intensify when walking and does not go away when you change your activity. It is normal to notice a mucousy or blood-tinged discharge (Bloody show). “Bag of waters” (membranes) may rupture. Cervix begins to dilate and thin out (efface) so the baby's head begins to descend into the birth canal.

During true labor, contractions can be slowed down with medication, but will not stop. The best way to find out if you are in false or true labor, is asking your doctor or health care provider.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is not to be used to replace professional medical advice. Always consult a doctor on medical matters.

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