What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

“Naah… not again… it was a false alarm.”

You must have heard many pregnant women saying this. So now, when it’s your turn, you want to prep up and not panic when your baby doesn’t come out. Rest assure we will help you through the phenomenon of false labor, also known as Braxton Hicks Contractions, a common occurrence in pregnancy. Also find out the difference between a real contraction and Braxton hicks contraction.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Your body gets ready for the delivery as soon as you step into the 39th week of pregnancy. Your uterus will also prepare for the upcoming event long before it’s due. Braxton Hicks Contractions occur when the uterus practice for the true labor. Amazing isn’t it? Exactly how we rehearse before a stage show.

These are mild contractions and usually don’t cause any severe pain. Women may often feel hardening or tightening of the uterus that can last upto 2 minutes with a 30 seconds interval. Some high endurance power women do not feel anything at all.

It usually starts during second trimester, probably around the 20th week. In the beginning it is quite mild and you may not notice anything. However, the signs become intense as the weeks graduate.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks Contractions may come earlier if you have been pregnant before. It is because the uterus thins and dilates your cervix.  Some women even describe it as mild menstrual cramps. They may be uncomfortable but is not harmful at all.

Braxton Hicks Contractions are characterised by:

  1. Soft tightening of abdomen muscles
  2. Painless hardening
  3. Contractions that generally come in ones or twos in minutes apart
  4. Contraction goes away as you change position or start doing something
  5. You will get used to it over time
  6. Don’t last longer

Difference between Braxton Hicks Contraction and Real Labor

The most common difference is Braxton Hicks Contractions are quite irregular with no set pattern. Whereas real contraction has a set pattern and follows a time table, one that’s easy to monitor.

False labor varies in each woman and in each pregnancy type. For some, it happens several times a day and none for the next couple of weeks, while for some it happens once or twice every day for several weeks.

Braxton Hicks contractions are more intense as pregnancy progresses and may happen frequently after exercise or intercourse. Real contractions are very painful and are unceasing. They come in regular intervals with set time difference. In fact you can actually know when the next contraction would start just by observing the clock.

Lying down, taking a walk, breathing exercises or even turning the position could help you deal with false contractions until they pass.

If the Braxton Hicks Contractions are regular – 10 minutes apart and you have been dealing with it for more than 6 hours nonstop, then you are actually in labor and need to rush to the hospital.

Here’s a quick comparison between the both

Contractions Timing and Duration

  • False Labor – Irregular and don’t get closer together.
  • True Labor – Regular intervals, each last about 30 – 70 seconds. As time goes by they come closer and more strongly.

Change in Contractions, DO THEY?

  • False Labor – May most probably stop if you walk, rest or change positions.
  • True Labor – Will continue and get intensified with time, no matter what you do – rest, speak, walk or even pray.

Magnitude of Each Contraction

  • FalseLabor – They are weak and mild. They don’t get stronger; in fact after the first one you may not feel anything at all.
  • True Labor – Contractions are stronger than false labor, including the first ones, and will intense as the hours go by.

Where the Pain is Felt?

  • False Labor – In the front of your abdomen or pelvis only
  • True Labor – Intense contractions that start in your lower back or hip and gradually move in the front of the abdomen. Or vice versa.

When should You call your doctor?

First of all discuss with your doctor in the beginning of the pregnancy, underwhat circumstances should you call your doctor immediately.

If you think the contractions are regular and not ceasing then you should call your gynaecologist. Your doctor will ask you some routine questions to confirm if it’s a real labor. If he is not clear, he will call out for an evaluation. Other reasons include;

  1. Vaginal bleeding
  2. If your water breaks or there’s continuous leakage
  3. Unceasing contractions for more than 6 hours
  4. Strong contractions every 5 minutes
  5. Changes in baby’s movements
  6. Less than 10 movements in 2 hours


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