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Also known as Braxton-Hicks or practice contractions, false labor is a tightening of the muscles in the uterus. The false labor contractions can begin as early as six weeks into a pregnancy although it is more common for the contractions to commence during the second or third trimester. Not every expectant mother will experience false labor during the course of a pregnancy.
The occurrence of false labor can be distressing to first-time mothers. Fortunately, there are several signs and symptoms that can help identify the differences between real labor and false labor. In most cases, the attending physician will go over these signs with the expectant mother early on, which can help ease some of the concern that naturally occurs if and when the false labor contractions take place.
When it comes to labor vs. false labor, one important sign has to do with the frequency and severity of the contractions. When there is an irregular pattern to the occurrence of the pains, there is an excellent chance that false labor contractions are occurring. In addition, the false labor signs do not seem to bring any additional pain. By contrast, true labor is distinguished by the establishment of a regular pattern of contractions and an increase in the level of pain as the time for delivery draws near.
There are several factors that can help minimize the frequency and pain experienced with false labor pains. Walking can sometimes help to quell the false labor contractions. Lying on the left side can also have the same effect for some women. Because a full bladder can trigger the contractions, relief from the contractions is sometimes attained simply by urinating. Proper hydration is important when it comes to managing the incidence of false labor pains, as it is more common to experience the contractions when the body is slightly dehydrated.
As the pregnancy draws closer to term, it is not unusual for the false labor pains to become more pronounced. Some women experience pains that are virtually identical to those of true labor, making it very hard to tell the difference. There should be no hesitation on seeking medical attention when the pains cause a great deal of discomfort or when they strongly mimic true labor. Should the attending physician determine that the woman is not experiencing true labor, it is often possible to administer medication to help ease the contractions and allow the woman to enjoy a respite from the false labor.
It is not unusual for physicians to provide expectant mothers with anti-anxiety medication or some type of sleep aid when false labor becomes a recurring problem. A qualified physician can determine what types of medication will provide the most relief while also not posing any threat to the pregnancy.
The Braxton-Hicks would be a great name for a country band. Just think of it! Restless Leg Syndrome would be another good name for a band, but that's beside the point...
Seriously, any expecting couple has likely had a run in or two with false labor. You get an extended period of panic followed by severe disappointment.