Updated on July 11th, 2021 // by Katie Griffin
Braxton Hicks contractions are practice contractions of the uterus. They happen more regularly and grow in intensity as you get closer and closer to your due date. Although they’re typically painless, sometimes they can get downright uncomfortable. With this in mind, how can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor? Follow these 4 simple tips to help you tell the difference between the two.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
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#1 Braxton Hicks vs True Labor: Time Them
Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular. There’s almost no rhyme or reason to them. If you time their length and spacing, you’ll find that there’s no pattern or predictability.
True labor contractions, on the other hand, are regular. They have a stable duration and frequency. With time and as your labor progresses, true labor contractions get longer and closer together.
#2 Braxton Hicks vs True Labor: Change Your Activity
Braxton Hicks contractions are typically very responsive to a change in activity. If you’ve been sitting at a desk all day and are having lots of contractions, try going for a walk. On the other hand, if you’ve been very active and that uterus keeps contracting, get a drink of water and lie down. If they’re BH contractions, they’ll likely go away.
True labor contractions do not go away with a change of activity. In fact, they’re likely to increase in intensity if you get more active, such as going for a walk.
#3 Braxton Hicks vs True Labor: Where Do You Feel Them?
Most women report feeling Braxton Hicks contractions as a tightening of the uterus in the front of their abdomen.
True labor contractions, on the other hand, often start as a dull throb in your lower back. In fact, it may take some time for you to recognize that the dull ache you’re feeling, which is similar to menstrual cramps, is actually the start of true labor. With time, that discomfort will wrap around to the front of your belly as well, growing in strength and pressure.
#4 Braxton Hicks vs True Labor: Get Checked
Despite all of the tips you read online, sometimes it’s still tricky to determine whether or not you’re really in labor. If you have have a high-risk labor, a low-lying placenta, or your baby is still not term (preterm), it may be wise to make a visit to your doctor or midwife to find out for sure.
Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause effacement and dilation of the cervix, while true labor contractions do. Your healthcare provider will monitor your contraction pattern and may check your cervix to see if it’s starting to thin out and open.
Determining whether or not you’re really in labor is one of the biggest challenges moms face at the end of their pregnancy. By following these 4 tips, you’ll be well prepared to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions. Good luck!!
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