False Labor or Real Labor – Supporting Mom

Is it real labor or false labor! This post will help you figure it out and help you support a positive experience for laboring Mothers.

False Labor or Real Labor

First, your dear heart Mama…. if you are wondering if you are in active labor or false labor you are going through a lot, please be kind to yourself.

False labor, also called  prodromal labor, Braxton Hicks, or my preference, Pre-Labor are all your body doing it’s job and getting ready for the baby. Not every woman goes through this, or even in the same way. It can feel very defeating to feel like you are in full labor, rush to the hospital only to get there and later be sent home. The birthing experience in the hospital can be many things, and for some it feels like your very dignity and sanity are being assailed. You have a right to all your emotions and they are valid, please though do not feel like you have done something wrong, that you are crazy, that you are not a fantastic mother, or that you can’t trust your body.

If the hospital sends you home because you are not in active labor, don’t feel embarrassed! They may call it false labor but I know it feels very real, and it is real, it just isn’t active labor yet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Calling it false labor doesn’t mean you have been tricked. You did nothing wrong, your body isn’t doing anything wrong! This is a special time in early labor for you to get ready! One school of thought is that hospitals are active places of intervention with a high bed turn over rate so they push you out to have room for others. Others believe that for early labor, just about any place but the hospital is more comfortable. Your concerns though might not have you feeling the same way though.

Do not be surprised if after being sent home you feel like crying. Many mothers cry after she gets home in Early Labor. She cries. For so many reason. She expected to be holding a baby for one thing. She feels like she got everyone excited and has nothing to show for it. Perhaps she saw her birthing plan slipping through her fingers. Maybe she has other children and her birthing support team let her down and she fears the next time she goes into labor she will not have the support she needs and deserves. She needs support, to be reminded this is normal, she did nothing wrong, disappointment is ok, and that everyone wants to help however they can. I wish her every comfort and wish she knew she was not alone.

One of the side effects of being sent home is sadly Moms feel like they can’t trust themselves to know when to go back to the hospital and they don’t want to be sent home again. Don’t do this to yourself. Labor and Delivery work for YOU. You are right to use their services when you feel it is time or just want to put your heart at ease to make sure everything really is ok. Go in if you feel it is time and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks! It is better to be safe than sorry.

You are strong, amazing, and your body is doing what it is supposed to in order to bring your baby into the world. It can be long process for some, specially first time mothers.

Now down to some facts to help you figure out where you are in all this. Latent labor is labor that is up to 4cm, active labor is said to be after that part. If you are like me and others, you can actually walk around at 4cm for weeks while your body does what it needs to and baby moves into the best position. Knowing just when to go in is more of an art a science and different doctors and hospitals have different policies. Your body doesn’t care about policies though. Listen to it and trust that when you feel you need support, it is time to go in. (Or if having a home birth, knowing when to call the Midwife!)

False Labor or Real Labor?

Just because it isn’t active labor, doesn’t mean it isn’t real labor!

If you are a pregnant mother looking for support, (often quietly and secretively as you don’t want to raise a false alarm I am told, bless your heart) or someone trying to support a laboring Mother, I hope you find the tips below to be helpful.

5 Ways to help tell if you’re in Active Labor

* Contractions feel like they are all over the belly and sometimes the back as well. Braxton Hicks or Pre-labor often feels low in the abdomen. 

* Active labor contractions normally last between 30 seconds building up to a full minute. Pre-labor contracts don’t seem to have a consistent lasting time. 

* Contraction for active labor are consistent in the time between them while getting close and closer together. 

* Active Labor doesn’t tend to fade or change when you change activity or position. 

* Of course if your water breaks you should head to the hospital or call the midwife. Another positive sign of active labor is bloody show and loosing the mucus plug.


I have been hard pressed to find statistics on how many women are sent home during early labor.

Did you get sent home? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    This would have been very helpful 6 years ago! I was in false labor for days and then when it finally switched to real, I didn’t realize it! I just got to the hospital in time!

    • I am glad you got there in time! I know some Moms who haven’t and I personally once I nearly didn’t! I don’t think our society gives pre-labor enough support for the special important time that it is!

  2. This is a great explanation! When I wasn’t sure, I never found any articles that explained it clearly enough! I wasn’t ever sent home thank goodness lol!!

  3. I went into labor and it stopped. It was bizarre. I was sent home and a few weeks later was induced to have my daughter

  4. Look, I was so confused with my first child. Seriously, I kept thinking I was in labor & I wasn’t. Thank you for sharing this

  5. Claudia Krusch says:

    I had false labor a few times with my first. I think I was so nervous I was jumping the gun a little. With my second I was more relaxed and able to recognize false labor.

  6. I wish I had this post while having my first child! I was a nervous wreck, but thankfully had a great support system that walked me through everything. Great post!

  7. I’m totally sending this to my sister. She is due with her first next month!

  8. Stephanie Jeannot says:

    Thank God you made it on
    Time. I have yet to experience this but maybe one day. God bless you and your family.

  9. I think it is a much better way to think of “false” labor as just not active labor. When women are told it’s false and sent home I’m sure that makes them feel like they have misjudged, misunderstood something and that they don’t know what their own bodies are experiencing. These are great tips for Moms to really get a good handle on active labor!

  10. This brings back so many memories of being pregnant. This great information will help so many women who have questions and concerns.

  11. I went into false labor every time I caught the bus to work when I was pregnant with my second. It was so embarrassing. I’d get to work and be in agony for a good hour every single time. The journey was full of winding roads so I imagine it was all the twisting and turning that caused it. I made sure I got a lift in whenever I could after the third time it happened!

    Louise x

  12. I wish I had read this when I was pregnant. I was always so afraid of being sent home that I didn’t go to the hospital until the baby was almost out. Haha.