Have a safe delivery: Know all about labour contractions and false alarms

Have a safe delivery: Know all about labour contractions and false alarms
The early signs of labour are subtle and you need to be alert to any changes. @Shutterstock

Many women get convinced that they are going into labour only to find out that it was a false alarm. Read on to know the difference.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : June 5, 2020 9:15 AM IST

Once you near the end of your pregnancy, you start to fret about your delivery. Many women tend to ignore their feelings because their due date may be weeks away. But you must remember that the due date is not cast in iron. It can change because of many reasons. Therefore, it is better to be acquainted with the facts of going into labour and what it involves.

Beginning of labour or false alarm? Know the difference

During the last few months of pregnancy, occasional and sometimes painful contractions are common. You may experience a sensation that your uterus is tightening and relaxing. This is nothing to worry about. Such contractions are known as Braxton Hicks contractions.

  • Time your contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. If you are going into labour, you will have regular contractions that get progressively stronger and closer together. False contractions are irregular.
  • Try to time your contraction. If you are going into labour, the contractions will last about 30 to 70 seconds.
  • If you are going into labour, your contractions will continue regardless of what you are doing or what position you are in. But if it is a false alarm, the contractions will stop when you walk, sit or lie down.
  • If you are in labour, you will experience pain high in your abdomen. This will radiate throughout your entire abdomen and lower back, or visa versa. If it is a false alarm, the contractions are in the lower abdomen and groin.

Early signs of labour

The early signs of labour are subtle and you need to be alert to any changes. Initially, you may feel a little uncomfortable and have irregular contractions that are not very painful. This happens because the lower part of your uterus called the cervix softens, shortens and thins. Your cervix will also gradually open up or dilate very slowly. You may also notice an increase in vaginal discharge that is clear, pink or slightly bloody. In fact, this may happen even days before you go into active labour. You need to contact your doctor immediately if there is heavy bleeding as this could be a sign of some complication. Around this time, your baby's head will settle deep into your pelvis. You may notice a change in the shape of your abdomen. This change can happen anywhere from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins.

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Your active labour starts with the rupture of the amniotic sac. This is your water breaking. At this time, you will experience a trickle of watery fluid from your vagina, which may sometimes also be a gush of fluid. This is when you need your doctor because now you are about to go into labour. If labour does not start immediately, it increases risk of infection for both you and your baby. So, your doctor may have to induce labour.

Recognise the signs of false alarms

It is important to know the signs of false alarm. This will save you a lot of stress and tension. Here are a few signs of false alarms.

  • If your contractions are irregular and unpredictable it is a false alarm.
  • If it is a false alarm, there is no progression of labour
  • You will feel a general tightening of the abdominal muscles.
  • Any change in activity or body position will stop or slow down the contractions.
  • There will be no bloody discharge.
  • Your water will not break.