True Labor versus False Labor

It is common to experience “false” labor pains before you have “true” labor pains. False labor pains – also called Braxton Hicks contractions – are common in your third trimester and may start as early as your second trimester. Braxton Hicks contractions feel like your abdomen is tightening. They often serve as your body’s way of getting you ready for “true” labor by softening and thinning your cervix. They are normal and nothing to worry about.

If you’re already having false labor pains, how will you know when you are really in labor? There are a couple ways to identify whether you are having Braxton Hicks contractions or true labor contractions:


In addition, here are other tell-tale signs of labor:

  • Feeling like the baby has dropped
  • Increase in vaginal discharge (clear, pink or slightly bloody)
  • Rupture of membranes (your water breaking)

About Virginia Women’s Center 
Our care team – comprised of OB-GYNshigh-risk pregnancy specialistsnurse practitioners, ultrasound technologists, psychologists and a genetic counselor – are experienced in all aspects of pregnancy and welcome the opportunity to provide care that revolves around you. We have added all of these services and specialists to our practice not only for your convenience, but also because we believe that you will benefit from a coordinated and comprehensive approach to your pregnancy care. For more information, visit, or find us on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.