How to Tell if You're Really in Labor

Health Check 9

labor painYou're due any day now and suddenly it hits you: An incredible wave of pain stretching across your abdomen that can only mean one thing. You're in labor! Or are you? How can you be sure? You could just be experiencing Braxton Hicks labor, or "false" labor. That's your body's way of practicing for labor pains -- but you're still not ready to have that baby yet. In fact, if you're having false labor, all you really need to do is relax, maybe take a walk, and make yourself comfortable.

But labor is something else. Once you start getting real labor pains, you should let your doctor or midwife know and then start timing how long and far apart your pains are. Before you have that baby, make sure you know the difference between early labor pains, Braxton Hicks contractions, and just plain ol' cramps. Here are 11 common labor-like symptoms and whether they're most likely labor pains or Braxton Hicks.

More from The Stir: 5 Early Pregnancy Symptoms That Can Fake You Out

1. Symptom: Pain moves from your abdomen to your back, or from your back to your abdomen. 

Most likely: Real labor. 

2. Symptom: Sight pressure on your lower abdomen that isn't painful.

Most likely: Braxton Hicks

3. Symptom: Tightening of your abdomen that comes and goes, but not in a set pattern.

Most likely: Braxton Hicks

4. Symptom: Belly pressure that goes away when you shift positions or walk.

Most likely: Braxton Hicks 

5. Symptom: A dull ache in your lower back along with pressure in your pelvis.

Most likely: Real labor.

6. Symptom: Waves of pain that feel like diarrhea cramps.

Most likely: Real labor.

7. Symptom: Cramps that get closer together over time.

Most likely: Real labor. False labor doesn't usually intensify over time.

8. Symptom: Cramps get stronger over time.

Most likely: Real labor. 

9. Symptom: Slight pressure on your lower abdomen that isn't painful.

Most likely: Braxton Hicks

10. Symptom: Pain in your thighs.

Most likely: Real labor. You may also feel pain in your sides.

11. Symptom: Cramps get weaker over time.

Most likely: Braxton Hicks

Labor pains can feel differently for different women. When in doubt, call your health care provider. Better safe than sorry! Even if you end up describing what turns out to be Braxton Hicks contractions, at least you'll know.

Are you worried about dealing with early labor pains?


Image via JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Corbis



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B1Bomber B1Bomber

2 and 9 are the same.

Also, with my first, I had completely pain-free real labor until my they broke my water, despite being on the strongest permissible dose of pit.

With my second, I had contractions increase in frequency to five minutes apart, then hang out there but increase in intensity...and it wasn't "real" labor. I stayed there, with increasing pressure, intensity, and pain, for four weeks.

The best bet is always to call your dr. Better safe than sorry.

miche... micheledo

And keep in mind everyone is different and every labor is different.  :D

I had 6 or 8 weeks of prodromal labor that slowly intensified, pains got closer, lasted longer, and by the time it was 'real' labor, there was NO difference.   Pretty sure I had it with my first two and that is why I was induced - went in in 'real' looking labor and never progressed.  Pretty sure if I had been sent home and waited it out like I did with #4, they would have eventually been really 'real.'

Donna Carter

i didnt have braxton hicks and i didnt know i was in labor until my water broke and by time it broke i was 8cm already and that when the contractions hit from no contractions to 5mins apart to 30 secs apart

NatAndCo NatAndCo

This entire article should have just read "lol you can't really!!!" I was in labor technically for about a day and a half before I went to the hospital and that was only for a scheduled appointment. I didn't know because I thought it was just cramps from having my cervix checked two days prior. And the nurse said if they got worse to come in but they gradually decreased. Then lo and behold when my doctor saw me the next day hunched over in his hallway he discovered I was already 5cm dilated. Point is, even with all the advancements in modem medicine, pregnancy is still very unpredictable. If you're not sure.... Have someone check.

Krystian Kaufold

This is kind of funny. 

I swear I've been in pre term/labor for weeks now. I'm 32 weeks today, and I'm 5 centimeters dilated, pressure at my vagina hole that doesn't go away at all. My contractions are every few minutes. 

The doctors refuse to do anything. 

Mommy... MommyOfOne2710

My contractions were so irregular, I didn't think I was in labor. They would also stop and start again. For the first five hours or so, it didn't even hurt; my belly would just get tight. Labor is so different for everyone!

MamaD... MamaDV1012

Bologna!  There is no such thing as any true sure ways to tell.  I had labor that didn't follow any pattern at all with my son.  It didn't wrap around, it was never really painful, no back pain, contractions would get closer and stronger then slow down, then speed up, etc.  My contractions never felt like cramps, just tension and uncomfortable and lots of rectal pressure.  Labor feels different to everyone. 

Natasha Alex

Dear friend it is almost two months now since i order a pregnancy spell cast on me by Dr Ekaka from the and which i started seeing changes on my body since the first week of last month and it two month and i am carrying my own baby in my warm i am so happy that i finally get pregnant after all i been through. All thanks be to Ekaka

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