8 Difference Between True And False (Spurious) Labor

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What Is Labor?

Labor also referred to as childbirth is the process of the baby leaving the uterus (womb). Labor is characterized by regular contractions that cause your cervix to change. Contractions are when the muscles of the uterus get tight and then relax. Contractions help to push the baby out of the uterus via the cervix. Cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. When labor starts, your cervix dilates (opens up).

False Labor

False labor also referred to as Prodromal labor or Braxton Hicks contractions is a common experience of most expectant mothers as they approach the due date of delivery. The contractions are not accidental contractions, but a way in which the body prepares for delivery by softening and thinning the cervix. It occurs as early as the second trimester but most often happen during the third trimester. Still false labor can cause quite a bit of unnecessary anxiety, worry and panic in expectant mothers.

False labor contractions are usually irregular in terms of both time and intensity.  They come every five, twelve or ten minutes for a varied amount of time. The contractions tend to be more uncomfortable than painful, (although some women do experience pain) and fell more like mild cramps than actual contractions.  There can also be pelvic pressure, abdominal tightening, vaginal discharge and scant spotting but no heavy bleeding. More importantly, false labor contractions are centered in your lower abdomen rather than your lower back and will stop if you take a glass of water, move, shift positions or lay down.

What You Need To Know About False Labor

  • The contractions are irregular and stop if you if you lie down or walk around. They do not increase in frequency or duration.
  • The contractions subside altogether if you change position or have two large glasses of water.
  • The pain is centered in your lower abdomen rather than your lower back.
  • The labor is usually weak and don’t get stronger or start strong and get weaker.
  • The contractions tend to taper off gradually and disappear.

True Labor

The contractions of true labor produce progressive dilation and enfacement of the cervix. These contractions occur regularly and increase in frequency, duration and intensity. Moreover, they will feel more painful than uncomfortable, especially as contractions persist. The discomfort of true labor contractions usually start in the back and radiates around to the abdomen and unlike false labor pains, true contractions do not relieved if you move, drink a glass of water, shift position, or lay down.

Show is also another sign of impeding labor. After the discharge of the mucus plug that has filled the cervical canal during pregnancy, the pressure of the descending part of the fetus causes the minute capillaries in the cervix to rapture. This blood is mixed with mucus and therefore has a pink tinge.

What You Need To Know About True Labor

  • The contractions are regular and persistent and gradually increase in frequency, duration and strength (contractions last about 30 to 70 seconds).
  • Contractions become more frequent, painful and more regular. If your contractions are becoming difficult to cope with and they are coming at four to five minute intervals, you are probably in labor.
  • The contractions intensify with activity and are not relieved by a change in position or having something to drink.
  • Each contraction may not be more painful than the previous one, but over time there is a definite increase in the level of labor pain.
  • The pain begins in your lower back and spreads to your abdomen and may also radiate to the tops of the legs.
  • Your membranes break and water breaks either as a trickle or a gush. This doesn’t always mean you’re in labor, but could mean it’s coming.
  • Your show is present and either pinkish or blood-streaked.
  • A noticeable change in your baby’s movement.
  • You may experience a slight increase in blood pressure.
  • Your mucus plug may come out all at once.

Difference Between True And False (Spurious) Labor

FALSE LABOR TRUE LABOR
Contractions are irregular. Contractions come regularly
Contractions don’t get closer together. Contractions do get closer together.
Contractions don’t get stronger. Contractions get stronger.
The labor pain tends to be felt only at the lower abdomen. The labor pain tends to be felt at the lower back.
The contractions subside altogether if you change position or have two large glasses of water.   The contractions intensify with activity and are not relieved by a change in position or having something to drink.  
The cervix doesn’t change with contractions. The cervix opens and thins with contractions.
No significant change in fetal movement even though fetus continues to move. Fetal movement may intensify for a short period or may remain the same.