False Labor or Real Labor? Intermountain Health Experts Give Tips On When to Go to the Hospital

Sunday, December 3, 2023 at 6:01pm UTC

False labor, pre-labor, and real labor and it can be difficult to tell the difference, especially if it’s your first pregnancy

(PRUnderground) December 3rd, 2023

When moms are pregnant for the first time, they may be unsure of what labor will feel like and how to know when they’re in labor and when they should go to the hospital.

And to add to the confusion, there’s false labor and pre-labor and real labor and it can be difficult to tell the difference, especially if it’s your first pregnancy.

Real or active labor – is defined as regular contractions and the cervix is changing. Real labor has a regular pattern for a couple of hours, and the cervix is opening or dilating, and also thinning or becoming effaced. But the only sure way to know if your cervix is changing and labor is imminent, is for your provider to check it. Active labor is painful, but the severity varies by person. But typically, women feel pain and pressure and can’t sit comfortably.

False labor contractions – occur when there are contractions, but they don’t change the cervix. There are two kinds of false labor, Braxton Hicks and Prodormal Labor.

Braxton-Hicks contractions are typically weak contractions of the uterus that aren’t coming at regular intervals and are unpredictable in duration, and never get closer together. They are not as painful as real labor. These can occur as early as the second trimester, but typically occur after 20+ weeks. These may occur when a mom is dehydrated or has been active physically. These contractions may go away when you walk or change positions.

Prodormal labor is a precursor to real labor where the body is preparing itself for active labor. The contractions of the uterus are stronger or more painful and they last about 60 seconds and they are becoming more consistent, between five and ten minutes apart. They usually don’t start until the third trimester or close to full term. They do not go away when you move.

When to call your doctor or midwife

“During pregnancy, call your OB/Gyn or midwife any time you have vaginal bleeding or are leaking fluid or, if you are 28 weeks gestation or later and your baby is not moving 10 times in two hours,” said Emma Miller, DO, an OB/Gyn at the Intermountain Health Saratoga Springs Clinic.

According to Miller, if moms feel contractions, they should start measuring their length and frequency. She also recommends moms should call their doctor or midwife if they are less than 34 weeks gestation, and the contractions are every 10 minutes for more than an hour.

“When you are 37 weeks along and your contractions are regular and five minutes apart, and they hurt enough that you can’t talk during them or continue with what you were doing, it’s a good idea to come into the hospital, especially if you want an epidural so you can be checked to see if labor is progressing. If you desire a more natural birth, you can choose to do some labor at home and then come to the hospital, but always check with your provider,” said Miller.

Intermountain Health has a Mother’s Choice Birth Plan that parents can fill out and go over with their provider, to help identify any preferences they have during labor and delivery, with the ultimate goal of keeping mom and baby safe.

Miller says most ideas about how to get labor started are old wives’ tales without data to back them up. But, walking will help get baby in right position for delivery. And there is some evidence suggesting that having sex may help get your labor started.

Going past the due date

Later in pregnancy as many moms feel more and more uncomfortable they may wonder about having labor induced.

“Elective inductions are not recommended until 39 week to help reduce the risk of complications, such as a Casearean for mom and baby. Having labor induced does not mean the birth will go quicker. For first time moms, it’s usually 24-36 hours after Pitocin is administered,” said Miller.

At 40 weeks plus talk to your provider about whether or not an induction is recommended. Your baby will need to be monitored and your amniotic fluid levels need to be checked. At 41 weeks the placenta may not support the baby as well during labor.

For more information or for a virtual tour of the labor and delivery unit at an Intermountain hospital nearby, visit intermountainhealth.org

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.

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