Distinguishing True From False Labor

The confirmation of true labor as opposed to false labor is an important initial step in the management of the term or near-term pregnant patient. False labor is defined as uterine contractions that do not lead to cervical changes. False labor is characterized by irregular, brief contractions usually confined to the lower abdomen. These contractions, commonly called Braxton-Hicks contractions, are irregular in both intensity and duration. False labor may persist for several days. It is most commonly treated in the outpatient setting by hydration and rest. Uncommonly, admission may be required for supportive care.

True labor is characterized by painful, regular contractions of steadily increasing intensity and duration leading to progressive cervical dilatation. True labor typically begins in the fundal region and upper abdomen and radiates into the pelvis and lower back. True labor also leads to progressive descent of the fetus into the pelvis in preparation for delivery and to cervical dilatation and effacement.

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