False labor is a common and frustrating problem for women and health-care providers. The purpose of this study was to compare characteristics of true and false labor. A convenience sample of 65 women compared data for three groups who were observed for labor including: false labor, women who were dismissed and returned in true labor more than 48 hours later, impending labor, women who were dismissed but returned in true labor 48 hours or less later, and early labor, women who were admitted for true labor directly following an observation period. Psychosocial differences among the groups were measured by the Maternal Adjustment and Maternal Attitudes (MAMA) scale and a semistructured interview schedule. Chart reviews were conducted to measure physiologic differences and perinatal outcomes. Descriptive and inferential statistics were computed using the SPSSX program. The following variables were statistically significant at P less than .05 for false labor: somatic scores on the MAMA scale, contraction frequency, cervical Bishop scores, gestational age, and Apgar scores. Increased frequency of abnormal labor patterns, intervention with amniotomy, and oxytocin augmentation were observed in false labor subjects. The negative emotional responses of women who were interviewed suggest a need for further investigation of interventions to promote both physical comfort and psychological support.