Distinguishing true labour from false labour

There is a condition termed false labour, which may be felt one or two weeks ahead of true labour. It is characterised by irregular contractions which are less painful than in true labour and they don't progress. Table 1.1 contrasts the characteristics of true and false labour. When a woman has a false labour, she should not be discouraged. Tell her that although she is not yet in true labour, the signs she is experiencing mean that her labour will start soon. Advise her on the signs of true labour (Table 1.1 and the next section) and tell her to call you or to come to the Health Post when the signs of true labour appear.

Table 1.1 Characteristics of true and false labour

CharacteristicsTrue labourFalse labour
Uterine contractions Contractions occur at regular intervals, but the interval between each contraction gradually becomes shorter Contractions occur at irregular intervals
Duration of each contraction gradually increases Duration remains unchanged — either long or short
Intensity of contractions becomes stronger and stronger Intensity remains unchanged
Cervical dilation Cervix progressively dilates Cervix does not dilate, remains less than 2 cm
Pain Discomfort at the back in the abdomen, cannot be stopped by strong anti-pain medication Discomfort is non-specific (has no particular location) and is usually relieved by strong anti-pain medication or by walking
Last modified: Sunday, 18 May 2014, 5:12 PM