Many women have periods of "false" labor. When this happens, your uterus knots up enough to make you think you're going into labor. False labor pains are called "Braxton-Hicks" contractions. They do some of the early work-they help soften, thin, and perhaps even slightly open your cervix. They tend to occur more often as your due date draws near. Sometimes, you can barely feel Braxton-Hicks contractions. You may notice a tightening of your belly. Other times they can be painful. These contractions occur in the afternoon or evening, after physical activity, or when you are tired.

If you have contractions, time them. Note how long it is from the start of one contraction to the start of the next one. The time between the contractions will help you determine if you are in true or false labor. Don't feel silly if you go to the hospital, sure that the big day is here, only to be sent home again.

Hint False Labor True Labor
Timing of contractions Often irregular, don't get closer together as time goes on. Come at regular intervals and get closer together. Last 30-70 seconds.
Change with Movement Contractions may stop when you walk, rest, or change positions. Contractions keep coming no matter what you do.
Strength of Contractions Often weak and tend to stay that way, or strong contractions are followed by weaker ones. Steadily get stronger.
Pain of Contractions Usually felt only in the front. Usually starts in the back and moves to the front.

First Stage of Labor

  1. You may see blood-tinged mucus as this phase begins.
  2. Mild contractions begin 15-20 minutes apart and last 60-90 seconds.
  3. Contractions occur more regular. Toward the end of early labor, they'll be less than 5 minutes apart.
  4. You may feel relieved and excited that labor has started at last.
  5. Go for a walk and see if they get stronger or more regular.
  6. Watch for active labor-contractions get stronger and more regular.
  7. If this happens or your water breaks, call our office.

Call Your Physician if:

  1. You have symptoms of labor before 36 weeks
  2. Your water breaks
  3. You have vaginal bleeding
  4. You have constant, severe pain with no relief between contractions
  5. You have fever or chills
  6. The baby seems to be moving less