It's Time For Labor: True Or False?

If you're ready to run to the hospital after your first contraction, slow down — it could be false labor. Then again, it could be the real thing...

Woman in labor

True or false? "Real" labor means a woman is having heavy-duty contractions that take her breath away.


Sure, when your body takes over and contractions are intense with only a few minutes in between each one, it's the real thing. But your body may start giving you signs that labor day is getting closer before it's truly time.

The truth about labor

Until you're actually in labor, you won't know exactly how you're going to feel. You also won't know if you'll be one of those moms who will have a shorter labor with progressing contractions right from the start or one whose body takes hours or even days until it's all systems go for Baby's birth day.

As a childbirth educator and doula, I have to admit I don't love the term "false labor." Sure, it might not be time to finish packing your bags and rush to the hospital, but when your body starts giving you signs it doesn't normally give you, something is happening.

Answers to the question is it really labor? >>

Whether you'll know if it's false labor will depend on a couple factors:

  1. If you happen to have an appointment scheduled with your doctor or midwife on "false labor day," they can do a vaginal exam to check and see if your cervix has started making any changes. If it's softening, shortening and thinning out or even starting to dilate, you may be getting close to labor being the real thing.
  2. If it's 2 a.m. and you're unsure what's going on — let's say you're having some very light contractions that aren't coming very close together at all, try to rest. When contractions get strong enough or your bag of waters breaks, you'll wake up — it's true!

Help! I still don't know if it's really labor

Still not sure if it's false labor? Call your doctor or midwife. You're bound to have questions — especially if this is your first pregnancy — and they have answers. It's important to note if you have any signs of labor before the end of your 37th week of pregnancy so they can treat — or rule out — preterm labor.

Learn secrets of the labor and delivery room >>

If you do decide to head for the hospital, only to be turned away because you're in false labor, take a walk, go out for a nice meal — possibly the last one for just the two of you for a while — or go home to rest so you have energy when it's really time.

More about labor

How to manage pain during labor and delivery
6 Signs of labor
We're messing up labor


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