Whole Parenting Family

“False” Labor: What To Do When It Happens

Last week was particularly difficult. My beloved godmother and close friend passed away at a young age (only early 60’s!) from cancer. In lesser and hardly comparable news, I’m not sleeping hardly at all; J has erupted into regular night wakings again; and the in-laws were in town this past weekend. Needless to say, I think stress propelled me into “false” labor on Friday night.

I put the term false in quotation marks because “false” labor does not mean you are not really having contractions at regular intervals, it means they don’t progress toward the end goal of effacement and dilation. It also means you’d better have your hospital bag packed and a car seat ready because when you’re almost 37 weeks pregnant and your baby has “dropped,” you know neither the day nor the hour, to quote the Good Book.

1) Signs of pre-labor.

There’s the usual gambit. Discuss what the signs are with your healthcare provider. Think things like: mucus plug loss, feeling your baby “drop” or “lighten,” regular contractions that increase in length, intensity, and interval. Even these don’t necessarily mean that you are in a labor state that will progress. If you experience any of these, contact your doula and midwife/doctor. They will probably tell you to take a bath, drink water, lay down, and keep them posted. Check out this comprehensive article on pre-labor signs and the last month of pregnancy, here.

I had about five hours of regular 5 minute interval contractions, but they never became longer, stronger, or closer together. And after an hour long bath wherein they actually became less frequent (about 7 mins apart), they softened up. I didn’t feel like I was in labor. After you’ve gone through it once, you cannot forget the feeling of intensity that slowly (or in some people’s cases, quickly) builds up.

2) Signs for concern.

Extremely sharp pain, lots of blood loss, blacking out, your water totally breaks (as in, oh-am-I-peeing-myself?-no-way-this-is-too-much-water), or you cease to feel the normal movements of your child: call your midwife or doctor right away. In fact, have that number taped up in your house somewhere conspicuous, or programed into your phone. Or both. Or programmed into everyone’s phone necessary (partner, spouse, mother, etc).

3) If you do go to the hospital/birth center . . . .

And you don’t progress and get sent home, don’t feel bad! We had this experience when I was pregnant with J. We went in the weekend before he was born (on a Wednesday), and the nurse was so unkind. She practically sneered when she informed me I had experienced false labor. It made me feel really stupid and duped by my body. We just got a bad egg–I love L&D nurses! But when you’re a first time parent, and you have contractions for hours that increase in intensity, it’s okay to go in and get checked to see how your dilation is coming along. Better to know than to stress out at home.


  1. mtnmomma on March 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Great post! False labor is the pits. I find it to be the worst psychological trick and am so sorry you got a bad egg at that time.

    This post (particularly #4) was really useful for me in the past. It’s obviously not fool proof, but it’s one more list of ways to assess labor at home. http://sarahvine.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/how-dilated-am-i-assessing-dilation-without-an-internal-exam/

    So sorry to hear of your stressful week. Please be gentle with yourself and take time for you. You handle it all so gracefully and will no doubt do beautifully when the time comes to bring your little girl into the world!

    • Novice Natural Mama on March 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      Excellent link! Thanks so much! You are so supportive. I’m just trying not to anticipate her arrival and instead be calm and ready when she is ready. Easier said than done, right? 🙂

  2. abbyanderson on March 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    OH NO! You had quite the weekend. False labor really does suck. Good info on here for those who are wondering what they are feeling. I had a lot of that with my second. Hang in there! This little girl is really making you work!

    • Novice Natural Mama on March 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      It’s an odd feeling to be in false labor, especially when you know it’s not going to progress because it doesn’t have “that” feeling. It’s like, oh, dress rehearsal!

  3. Prepared for Baby No. 2 « Whole Parenting on April 4, 2012 at 8:13 am

    […] so I think. Our hospital bag is packed (especially in light of last week’s “false” labor event), the nursery is done in girlish hues, the baby girl clothing has been generously handed down […]

  4. Jess on April 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I totally had the “false labor” thing this time around, too. Except, I was only 33 weeks so they told me to come into the hospital to make sure. Really, not a fun way to spend an evening. Totally true about dress rehearsal – we were like, “um, what exactly are we supposed to do with DD while we spend several hours in labor & delivery? And where is the L&D unit anyway?”

    • Novice Natural Mama on April 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Oh man!! I had better figure out how to get to the parking lot of the hospital 🙂 And yeah, what about when you have a child at home!?

  5. […] not having hit my “due” date) for a while now. See “False” Labor post here, see Prepared for Baby No. 2 here. She arrived at 39 weeks and 1 day, and not a moment too soon for […]