False Labor vs. True Labor

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 in Videos

Do you know the difference between true labor and false labor? Childbirth instructor and registered nurse Wendy Nichols explains the difference and how you relieve the symptoms of Braxton Hicks contractions.


Hi, my name is Wendy Nichols. I'm a registered nurse and the childbirth instructor for Signature Medical Group. Today we're going to talk about labor: false labor vs. true labor.

Braxton Hicks contractions, otherwise known as false labor, are a tightening sensation or contractions that are happening only in the front of your abdomen. You'll feel a balling up sensation. They are usually painless; they don't have a consistent pattern to them and they will go away with changes in activity.

If you're having 4 or more contractions an hour, then we might move into true labor. We'll go through that next. Otherwise you can do some things to help alleviate that discomfort.

One is: empty your bladder. A full bladder can make your uterus contract.

Two is: to hydrate. Drink 32 to 40 ounces of decaffeinated beverages such as water or juice over a 30 to 45 minute period. Dehydration can also make your uterus contract.

The last thing we recommend is to change your activity. If you have been up and busy and moving around, we want you to put your feet up - rest. Laying on your left side is most beneficial for the baby. If you have been laying around relaxing, we would want you to get up and do some light activity such as walking.

False labor or Braxton Hicks contractions will go away. They will not have a pattern, they will not be consistent, and they will not grow stronger together.

Next let's talk about true labor. True labor contractions are a little bit different. They usually start in your abdomen and radiate all the way around to your back or sometimes they can start in your low back and radiate around to your abdomen.

They are stronger and they last longer than Braxton Hicks would. True labor contractions usually last 30 to 90 seconds and they will have a pattern to them.

You would want to time your contractions and you time your contractions from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. It's easy to write them down on a piece of paper or look up an app on one of your smartphones if you have that and you can time your contractions that way.

Contractions will be stronger, last longer, and get closer together. The time to call your OB physician or go to the hospital is if they are 5 minutes apart for an hour. And again: that's timing it from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.