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Childbirth Class Two Online

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Updated June 15, 2014

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Real Labor or False Labor?
Pregnant Woman Packing her Hospital Bag

Pregnant Woman Packing her Hospital Bag

Photo © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com
Many women will tell you that they made several trips to the hospital or spent hours on the hone with their practitioner or doula trying to determine if this was real labor or false labor.

First of all. let me say that there is no such thing as false labor. Certainly there are periods of contractions that do not end with the birth of the baby, but they are beneficial for reasons that we may not be able to measure like dilation. Perhaps they are helping the baby rotate to a better position or other benefit.

Here is a handy chart to tell if this is the real thing or not:

False Labor

  • Contractions don't get closer together.
  • Contractions don't get stronger.
  • Contractions tend to be felt only in the front.
  • Contractions don't get longer.
  • Walking has no effect on the contractions.
  • Cervix doesn’t change with contractions.

True Labor

  • 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.
  • Cervix opens and thins with contractions.

Don't worry if you wind up calling your doctor or midwife a few times. Even the most experienced mothers can be fooled by contractions.

More information on real versus false labor.

Did you have a false alarm?

Water Breaking

Another common belief is that your water will break nearly as soon as labor begins or as a sure sign that labor is under way. The fact is that only 12% of women will start labor with the breaking of their water and that 75% of women, if left alone, will have their membranes intact until after 9 centimeters dilation.

Did my water break?

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