It’s a question that’s on every pregnant woman’s mind—how will I know if I am experiencing real labor? False labor pains, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are quite common during pregnancy in your second or third trimester. While these contractions are perfectly normal and nothing for you to worry about, many women get confused, especially when it’s their first pregnancy and they have no one to guide them.
Fake labor contractions are actually your body’s way of preparing you for the real thing. We help you understand the signs and symptoms that make false labor different from the real one.
Spotting The Two
If you are experiencing false labor, you feel a tightening in your lower abdomen that comes and goes. The intensity and the time the contractions last will be the same; it will not increase. In some cases, the pain will stop when you change position or get some rest. Unlike true labor, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually painless and don’t increase when you walk.
Real labor pains are different for every woman and might also differ for the first and second pregnancy. You might start feeling a dull ache around your lower back or abdomen, which gets stronger gradually. Besides that, you also feel a tightening or pressure in your pelvic region which is accompanied with a dull pain in your thighs or on your sides. The pain could be a strong cramp like the ones you feel during your period with a persistent lower back pain, or it could be strong variations of cramps that accompany a severe case of diarrhea.
Here’s what you should watch out for:
1. Timing: In false labor, contractions will be irregular and will not change in pattern over time. In the real one, they will be at regular intervals and form a pattern with time, getting closer and stronger with each passing contraction. If the contractions stop after some time, you have nothing to worry about. If they increase in frequency and appear to be closer, call your doctor.
2. Posture: False labor contractions may stop if you change position, sit or lie down, or start walking. Real labor contractions will not stop with a change in posture and it might even become difficult for you to walk after some time.
3. Intensity: False labor contractions are painless, unpredictable and mostly die on their own. In real labor, the contractions will become stronger every half hour.
4. Discharge: If you have vaginal bleeding, an increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge, chances are there’s something wrong. If you’re in your last trimester then your real labor might begin soon. False labor will bear no such signs.
When To Call Your Doctor
If you feel a strong pain in your pelvis that refuses to go, call your doctor. Make sure you immediately seek medical help if you have:
- Vaginal bleeding that is bright red and smelly
- Constant wetness in your vaginal area or a feeling of ‘leaking’
- Contractions that come every five minutes for an hour
- There is a sudden decrease or increase in your baby’s movement
- You are not able to walk or sit through the pain
Do not hesitate to call your doctor, even though you may worry it is just a fake alarm. Your healthcare provider will guide you whether or not you need to reach a medical facility.