Every pregnant woman will experience contractions at some point in her pregnancy. Some might have contractions earlier on; others may not feel these uterine contractions until closer to labor. If you’re freaked out about preterm labor, you might be worried that your contractions mean that your baby is coming early. For this reason, it’s a good idea for you to learn the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions vs. true labor contractions.
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions, also called false labor pains, are intermittent uterine contractions that are getting your body ready for delivery. Most medical experts argue that Braxton Hicks are your body’s way of toning the uterus up and preparing it for labor and delivery. They argue that without these practice contractions, your body won’t be in the right shape to give birth.
Although most women won’t notice their first Braxton Hicks contractions until the second trimester, they’ve been occurring since you were six weeks pregnant. Keep in mind that some women never experience Braxton Hicks contractions at all.
If you experience Braxton Hicks contractions early on, you will notice that these false contractions will strike more often as your pregnancy continues. Until the final weeks of your pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions will be painless (for most women), and they always occur at unpredictable times. They should not have a regular pattern, and you won’t be able to time them.
What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?
When you have Braxton Hicks contractions, it can feel like a painless tightening of your abdomen that comes and goes at random intervals. For most women, these false contractions aren’t uncomfortable (though some women do describe them as painful. It just depends on your pain threshold). Your Braxton Hicks contractions should not get closer together with time, and they shouldn’t increase in severity as you walk around.
Braxton Hicks contractions are non-rhythmic and unpredictable. These false contractions can last for 30 to 60 seconds, or a few minute. After you notice them, they’ll ease up and disappear.
You may notice that your false labor pains are triggered after sex, when you are very active during the day, when someone touches your belly, or when your bladder is full and you have to go. Dehydration can also trigger Braxton Hicks contractions.
Braxton Hicks Contractions or True Labor?
Regardless of whether it’s true contractions or Braxton Hicks, having contractions is nerve-wracking for any pregnant woman. There are distinct differences between the two types of contractions, however.
True labor contractions are often painful and uncomfortable. Some women describe them as a dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the back. They often come with pelvic pressure. You may feel pain in your thighs and sides. You may feel like very strong menstrual cramps or diarrhea pains. Contractions feel different from woman to woman.
On the other hand, Braxton Hicks contractions are fairly mild, irregular and you never know when they will come.
Here’s a chart that describes the pain differences between the two types of contractions.
Braxton Hicks vs. True ContractionsWhat's the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions?
|Braxton Hicks||True Contractions|
|Contractions occur sporadically (irregular). You cannot predict when the next contraction will strike.||True labor contractions occur regularly.|
|Braxton Hicks contractions do not get closer together with the passing of time.||Labor pains WILL get closer as time passes. They may come every 30 minutes at first, then every 20 minutes, then every 5 minutes, and so on.|
|Your discomfort will go away if you change positions. Contractions disappear when you walk, sit down, or move.||It doesn't matter how you move, or if you rest, your contractions are still going to come, getting stronger with time.|
|False contractions are typically weak, and they do not get stronger. If you happen to get a strong Braxton Hicks contraction, the next one might be weaker. They do not increase in severity.||True contractions get stronger and more painful.|
|You typically feel Braxton Hicks contractions in the front of your belly.||Contractions often start in your lower back, and then move around to the front.|
As you approach closer to your due date, don’t be surprised if Braxton Hicks contractions turn into true labor pains. If they begin to get stronger, increase in frequency and severity, you may be in early labor. Pay attention to your contractions, and you may even want to time them.
If you’re concerned about the contractions you’re experiencing, please visit your doctor and see what he or she has to say. Good luck!
Special Thanks to My Guest Blogger
James who helps run a pregnancy site has written this article. He has tried to help people understand all about pregnancy including Braxton Hicks contractions and various other pregnancy problems!