How to tell the difference between false labour and true labour | Living and LovingLiving and Loving

How to tell the difference between false labour and true labour

It’s nice to have some idea, ahead of time, of how to tell whether baby’s on the way or not.


A pressing thought on every pregnant woman’s mind is: ‘Will I know when I’m really in labour?’ Usually, childbirth educators and practitioners try to ease this concern with the standard answer of, “You’ll know”.

First off, your body normally gives you some advance signals that labour is on its way. While these are signs of progress, they do not mean that you will go into labour within a few hours or even days. They are simply a means of saying that your body is getting ready to give birth.

ALSO SEE: 5 signs of approaching labour

Is it false labour or true labour?

Some women will make trips to the hospital or clinic, believing they are in labour, only to be sent home. This is nothing to worry about. It can happen to anyone, no matter how many children they’ve had. Sometimes you arrive there and you aren’t as dilated or as far along as you thought. Most of the time you can go home to rest more comfortably and return once the contractions have picked up. However, if you think you are in labour – even if it’s not nearly your due date – it is very important that you contact your doctor or midwife immediately and rather go to the hospital in case of an emergency.

True versus false labour contractions

ALSO SEE: How to time your contractions

False labour:

  • Contractions don’t get closer together.
  • Contractions don’t get stronger.
  • Contractions tend to be felt only at the front.
  • Contractions don’t last longer.
  • Walking has no effect on the contractions.
  • The cervix doesn’t alter.

ALSO SEE: Labour contractions – what they do and how they feel

True labour:

  • Contractions do get closer together.
  • Contractions do get stronger.
  • Contractions tend to be felt all over.
  • Contractions do last longer.
  • Walking makes the contractions stronger.
  • The cervix opens and thins.


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