False Labor

If your pregnancy is at 37 weeks or longer and you are having contractions that are not true labor, you are having false labor. It's not time yet to give birth to your baby.

True labor contractions can start unevenly but soon take on a regular pattern. As time goes on, the contractions will get stronger. Also, the intervals between the contractions will get shorter. Even at the onset, these contractions last at least 30 seconds and may increase to a minute. True labor contractions often start in the back and then move to the front.

False labor contractions can be strong, frequent, and painful, but there is no regular pattern. The intensity can vary from strong to mild to strong again. False labor contractions are most often felt in the front. While true labor contractions don’t stop no matter what you are doing, false labor contractions may stop on their own or when you rest or move around.

False labor contractions might make you feel anxious or lose sleep. But they don’t mean that you are sick or that anything is wrong with your baby. You don’t need to take any medicine for false labor.

Sometimes, it may be too hard to tell false labor from true labor. In such cases, you may need to have a vaginal exam. This allows your healthcare provider to check for changes in the cervix that only occur with true labor.

Home care

  • It may help to drink plenty of water and take warm baths. Do what you can ahead of time to prepare for giving birth so you’ll have less to worry about later.

  • Keep a record of your contractions. Write down what time each one starts and how long it lasts. A stopwatch is helpful. Look for the pattern of regularly spaced out contractions with a gradual increase in the time each one lasts.

  • Don’t be embarrassed about going to the hospital with a “false alarm.” Think of it as good practice for the real thing.  

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If you are very worried, confused, can’t eat or sleep, or have questions about your health or pregnancy, schedule an appointment with your provider.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You are fewer than 37 weeks along in your pregnancy and you’re having contractions.

  • You have contractions that are regular, getting longer, stronger, and closer together.

  • Your water breaks.

  • You have vaginal bleeding.

  • You feel a decrease in your baby’s movement or any other unusual changes. 

  • You’re not sure if you are having false or true labor.

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