Childbirth and Labor Pain: What is False Pain and Real Pain?

Real vs. False Labor: Expert Tips to Recognize & Manage

Quick Answer: The distinctions you've made between false and true labor pain are accurate. False labor contractions are less regular, do not get closer together, and often stop with movement or changes in position. True labor contractions come at regular intervals, get closer together, last about 60 to 90 seconds, and continue regardless of activity level or position

Aspect False Labor (Braxton Hicks) True Labor
Frequency Irregular; do not get closer together. Regular; contractions get closer over time (2-5 minutes apart).
Duration Typically weak and variable. Last about 30-70 seconds each, consistent.
Intensity May start strong and get weaker; mainly in front of abdomen. Progressively get stronger; start in back, move to front.
Cervical Changes Rarely affect the cervix. Cause cervical effacement (thinning) and dilation.
Physical Location Felt in the front of the abdomen. Start in the back, move to the front.
5-1-1 Rule - Contractions every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour.
Associated Symptoms Tightening or cramping, similar to menstrual cramps. Includes bloody show, nausea, vomiting, water breaking, and changes in vaginal discharge.

Ready to Navigate Your Labor Journey with Confidence?

Understanding the difference between false and true labor pains is crucial for any expectant mother. But remember, every pregnancy is unique. If you're ever in doubt, never hesitate to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and support.

Congratulations on becoming (or soon to be) a parent! Having a baby is one of life's most beautiful experiences, and you want to do everything to ensure your pregnancy and labor are safe and healthy. When it comes to labor, knowing the difference between false and true labor can make a tremendous difference in your overall experience. Here's what you need to know about false pain vs. real pain during labor and how to ease both.

Labor Pain Management

What Is False Labor Pain?

False labor pain is Braxton Hicks contractions. They can start as early as six weeks, but are most noticeable in the last trimester. These contractions are often called "practice" and can help you prepare for the big day.

As you near your due date, the contractions of your uterus may become more frequent. However, these indicate nothing about when labor will begin. Women report these contractions as a tightening or cramping in the abdomen that may come and go. They can be irregular, uncomfortable, and rhythmic.

Women usually feel false labor pain only in the abdomen's front, while they feel true labor in the front and back of the abdomen. They're frequently compared to menstrual cramps and can be uncomfortable, but they are usually not as strong as true labor contractions.

What Is True Labor Pain?

True labor pain is the real deal. It's a sign that you're getting closer to delivering your baby and are characterized by intense, consistent contractions of the uterus. It typically starts with a low backache that moves to the front of your abdomen and increases in intensity. You'll also feel stronger contractions in the abdomen and groin area.

True labor pain is usually regular and gets more intense as time goes on. Contractions can last anywhere from 30 to 70 seconds and come at intervals of between 5 and 20 minutes apart, and continue regardless of movement or resting. You're likely in true labor when the contractions are five minutes apart.

How to Tell the Difference Between False and True Labor Pain?

It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between false and true labor pain. Here are a few factors that can help you differentiate between the two:

  • While false labor contractions may come and go, true labor contractions are much more frequent.
  • Women usually feel false labor pain in the front of their abdomen, while true labor pain affects both the front and back of their abdomen.
  • False labor contractions rarely get stronger or closer together over time, as true labor contractions do.
  • While false labor contractions often won't affect your cervix, true labor contractions are accompanied by changes in the cervix.

While these are some telltale signs, call your doctor for an evaluation if you're unsure.

When to Contact Your Doctor?

If you're experiencing true labor pain or other problems, such as nausea, an increase in your temperature, vomiting, or extreme pain, it's essential to contact your doctor. They can help you determine the next course of action, manage your labor, and deliver the safest possible outcome. When you call your doctor, they'll ask questions to help determine if work has started. Some questions you can expect include:

  • How often and how long are the contractions?
  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?

Your doctor can also help determine if you are experiencing false labor and recommend ways to ease the discomfort.

How to Ease False Labor Pain?

If false labor pains become uncomfortable or intolerable, there are some steps you can take to ease them:

1.Change Your Activity

Lying down and resting may help, or switching positions may provide relief. Consider a unique pillow, such as Momcozy U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow. The super breathable, ultra-comfortable, and washable pad supports your belly and back during pregnancy, helping to reduce discomfort.

2.Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help ease false labor pain. Hydration is also essential for your overall health and the health of your growing baby.

3.Use Heat

Using a heating pad or warm compress may help reduce discomfort during false labor pain. A warm bath can help relax your muscles and soothe your contractions.

4.Use light stretches or massage

Gentle stretching and massaging the abdomen can help relieve pain associated with false labor pains. Wear the right clothing while stretching, such as Momcozy Maternity Support Seamless Leggings. They offer superior support and comfort while exercising and are perfect for walking, yoga practice, or light jogs after delivery.

How to Ease True Labor Pain?

There are a few ways that you can ease true labor pain while still maintaining your comfort and safety before it's time for delivery:

1.Deep breathing

Taking slow, deep breaths during contractions can help you manage the discomfort. It gives you something to focus on and can help your muscles relax.

2.Change Your Position

Changing positions can help ease labor pains. Try leaning against the bed, squatting, or walking to help move the baby down.

3.Use Heat

Using a heating pad or warm compress may help reduce discomfort during true labor pain. A warm bath can help relax your muscles and soothe your contractions. Some birthing centers even offer water births, which may help reduce the intensity of labor pain.

Easing Labor Discomfort


Try listening to music, watching a movie, or concentrating on something else to take your mind off the pain. Many women also find that talking to a friend or partner helps them relax.


When you're at a medical facility, they might offer you an epidural or nitrous oxide medication to help manage the pain.

Last Word

No matter what type of labor pains you're experiencing, you must talk to your doctor about how best to manage them. They can help you understand what kind of labor pain you're dealing with and provide advice on easing any discomfort. With their help and support, you can have a safe and comfortable birthing experience.

Want more insights on pregnancy and childbirth? Explore our collection of articles for more empowering knowledge and tips. And for those moments when you need a little extra support, join our community of moms sharing their stories and experiences on  Facebook!

Your journey to motherhood is beautiful and challenging. Let's make it a journey of comfort and confidence, together.

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