If you are in the final stages of pregnancy, chances are you’ve experienced some instances of false labor. These are painless contractions that occur a few times throughout the pregnancy period.
They are the result of the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. Knowing the difference between false labor and true labor could save you quite a number of needless trips to the doctor, not to mention the stress that goes with thinking the time for delivery has arrived when it actually hasn’t!
The Chemistry Of The Labor Process
The body begins preparing for labor long before D-day. Your unborn baby produces a hormone called oxytocin, which in turn stimulates the contraction of the uterus. Oxytocin also has the effect of increasing your estrogen levels. As a result of the increased estrogen level, the uterus becomes even more sensitive to oxytocin, leading to increased contractions. This cyclic process of stimulation between hormones goes on throughout the pregnancy period.
Identifying False Labor
It is no wonder then that you experience contractions that may lead you to think labor has started. So how do you identify false labor? The first step is to check the nature of contractions. False labor pains are irregular. They may vary in strength as well as length. The gap between the contractions will also differ. You can time your contractions with a stop watch to find out. In case it is true labor, the painful contractions may start out irregular but they will become more intense and closer and last longer.
The next indicator is the source of pain. Pain that starts from the lower back and goes on to the abdomen is a sign of false labor. Another good technique is to change whatever you are doing. If you were lying down when the contraction started, stand up and walk around. If there is no change in the contractions or they disappear altogether it is a false alarm. Drinking some water or eating something can also quell such contractions.
If you want to be sure before making a trip to the hospital, it is best not to rely on contractions. There are other symptoms of labor, such as soft bowel movements in early labor. There could also be some blood or mucus plug, which could further help confirm that the contractions are those of true labor.
True labor has some definite signals. For instance, contractions will be more frequent, and of such intensity that they may be difficult to ignore. They may also last as long as 60 seconds. You also find yourself losing your appetite and unable to eat most things. You do not feel like talking or moving around when the contractions happen.
False labor symptoms tend to get more realistic if it’s a second pregnancy. So making out whether it’s the real thing or not is not going to be easy. While the indicators we have described are useful, they are not 100% foolproof. Labor experiences differ from one expectant mother to the next. When in doubt it is best to call your obstetrician. Until then save yourself the needless trips to the doctor by knowing the signs of false labor.