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False labor can be frustrating, especially when you're near or past your due date, but those early contractions help prepare you and your body for the work ahead. False labor pains differ in intensity, length and predictability from real labor pains. In general, if you have to ask if you're in labor, you're probably not, but every woman's different, and it's best to check in with your doctor if you're not sure.
In true labor, early contractions typically last around 30 seconds. As labor progresses, contractions become longer, lasting a minute or more, says the American Pregnancy Association. The contractions are predictable. Each one generally lasts as long as the last one, intensifying and becoming longer over time. During false labor, contractions are generally shorter and may vary in intensity and length.
During real labor, nothing you do can slow down or stop labor. Once that train gets rolling, it keeps on rolling with greater speed and intensity. False labor contractions ebb and flow, depending on your activity. If you lie down or even change positions, they may subside. Eating or drinking something or going for a walk can change the intensity of false labor pains.
False labor pains usually feel different from the real thing. Although each woman experiences real labor pains differently, in general, real labor pains begin at the top of the abdomen and radiate downward. You may feel a dull ache in your back and thighs, as well as pressure in the lower pelvis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. False labor pains tend to be concentrated in the lower abdomen and groin.
Absence of Symptoms
Lack of progression of contractions is usually the main indicator that you're in false labor, but the absence of other symptoms can also provide clues. During real labor, you may notice bright red blood or a mucous discharge. If your water breaks, fluid will continually leak from your vagina, or you may feel a gush of liquid. These symptoms indicate that labor is well under way, according to Cleveland Clinic.
When to Call
False labor contractions can fool even an experienced mom because they often come in the evening, which is also when real labor often begins. The contractions may feel quite intense and come close together. Don't be embarrassed if you get to the hospital only to discover you're not in real labor. It's better to be safe than sorry. Try to view this experience as a practice run rather than a failure. Call your doctor if you think you might be in labor or if you have concerns. You should definitely call if you see bloody, your water breaks, the contractions are too intense to walk through or the baby's movements have noticeably decreased, says Cleveland Clinic.