True Labour Pain vs False Labour Pain 101: The Essential Guide

Usually, in your last trimester, you might be feeling stressed out and getting ready to rush to the hospital. It is during the last trimester of your pregnancy that the thought of holding your newborn in your arms brings a smile on your face and at the same time the thought of the pain before giving birth gives your jitters. After all, we know how painful contractions are. While most of your labour pains are real, there are times, when there is a series of false contractions. However, educating yourself on true and false labour pain may not just help you identify both, but also helps you prepare yourself for childbirth. Read this article to know the difference between false labour and true labour:

Symptoms Of Real Labour Contractions Close To Your Due Date

As you go closer to the date of your delivery, you might experience these signs of labour. Try to identify them before you call your healthcare professional. The signs of labour are:

Your Contractions Are Strong and Regular

In this condition, the uterine muscles become tight like a fist and go into relaxation. Moreover, strong and regular contractions can help push the baby out of your womb. If this is true labour contractions, it is not going to be more than 30 to 70 seconds, but it is so strong that you won’t be able to walk or talk at that time.

You Will Feel The Pain In The Lower Back and Belly

This is the most common source of labour pain, which occurs as a result of the baby’s head exerting pressure on the lower back.

You Might Have a Bloody Show

Bloody show (bleeding at the end of pregnancy) is a sign of true labour. This would be either brownish or reddish in colour. This might appear a few weeks before your labour begins and indicate that your body is getting ready for childbirth.

Your Water Breaks

Sometimes, the amniotic sac breaks before your labour. The uterus might also be lying on the top of your bladder giving rise to urine leakage, so much so that you might not be able to differentiate the amniotic fluid and the urine.


As you go closer to your due date, the baby inside you moves lower into the pelvis, and your childbirth professional mentions this phenomenon to be lightning.


By the end of your pregnancy journey, you might experience “nesting”. That means you might be full of energy to cook or clean up everything that you see around you.

Cervical Changes

The cervix is between 3.5 centimeters (cm) and 4 cm long. As you prepare for your labour, the cervix becomes short, ripens and opens. In fact, the cervix dilates to around 10 cm.

When you feel the first contractions, you may very well take a notebook and record the timings of your contractions. Who knows if these might be the symptoms of true labour pain?

Symptoms Of False Labour Contractions Close To Your Due Date

Not all contractions mean you’re having labour pain. Sometimes, you might experience false labour pain before true labour pain starts. These are “false” labour pains, which are also referred to as Braxton Hicks Contractions. In this case, there is a tightening of your abdomen that comes and goes. Well! The false labour pain symptoms don’t just end here. The other signs of Braxton hicks are:

  • Mild to moderate pain in the uterus. This pain is almost similar to menstrual cramps.
  • The contractions come and go without becoming stronger over time.
  • The contractions don’t stop with the change in activity.

Now that you’ve understood how true labour and false labour feels like you would probably be able to figure out the difference between Braxton hicks and real contractions:

True Labour vs False Labour

ConditionsFalse Labour PainTrue Labour Pain
Frequency of the ContractionsIrregular Neither the intervals between contractions nor the length or strength of contractions have progressed over time.Takes place at regular interval The frequency of contractions become closer in time, longer, and stronger. 
Length of the ContractionsTakes place less than 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes.Lasts between 30 seconds to less than 90 seconds and tends to become stronger over time.
Strength of the ContractionsGenerally weak and tend to remain the same and then fade away.Becomes stronger with time.
Symptoms of ContractionsFelt in front of the abdomen.Contractions begin in the midback and wrap around the abdomen.
Changes in ContractionsMay stop with your change of activity.Contractions continue and become strong with movement.

Having said that, your pregnancy might differ from your neighbour’s or relative’s pregnancy. Therefore, we know that your birthing contractions might also differ from the other. So, there are a few things you can do if you have contractions.

Things To Do When You Have Contractions

Before getting admission to the hospital, all that you need to do while you have contractions are:

  • Note the characteristics of the contractions
  • Understand the areas of pain
  • Practice breathing techniques
  • Try moving around
  • Inform your partner

From the whole procedure of labour from your first contractions to the delivery of the baby, educating yourself on the various stages of labour can help you quite a bit.

Also, if you want to know something more on childbirth and the benefits of cord blood banking through our blog page.