Alternate Names : Prelabor, Braxton Hicks Contractions, Prodromal Labor, Latent Phase
False labor or prelabor is often called the first stage of labor. It's when the cervix begins to thin out, shorten, and soften. False labor causes contractions that feel like the uterus is knotting up, known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are often irregular and do not get closer together consistently. They may stop when the woman rests and usually do not get stronger. False labor can feel just like true labor to a woman.
What is going on in the body?
No one knows exactly what causes labor to start, but changes in hormones play a role. Labor begins when the cervix begins to open. The uterus, which is a muscle, contracts at regular intervals. When it contracts, the abdomen becomes hard. Between contractions, the uterus relaxes and the abdomen becomes soft. False labor can precede real labor by a very short time or by a full month or more.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
No one knows exactly what triggers labor. Several theories have been suggested. The cause may be a combination of fetal, placental, and maternal factors.
The main risk is that the woman will discount true labor as false labor and delay calling the healthcare provider. This can result in a home birth or an emergency delivery that could have been avoided. Many women worry about being embarrassed if their call to the healthcare provider turns out to be false labor. It is always best to err on the side of caution and call the provider.