What’s the Difference Between Braxton Hicks Contractions and Real Contractions? - Cherokee Women's Health

What’s the Difference Between Braxton Hicks Contractions and Real Contractions?

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Contractions are a part of the rising action in pregnancy that lead up to the climax of birth. In the anticipation prior to delivery, many women wonder if they are experiencing true or false contractions. False contractions, or Braxton Hicks contractions, are a common part of pregnancy. While no mom wants to arrive at the hospital too early, you also don’t want to risk giving birth in a car. Here’s a quick rundown on what they are and how to tell if you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or if you’re truly going into labor.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are experienced when the uterus irregularly contracts, typically during the third trimester. Also known as “practice contractions,” they are considered the body’s warm-up or rehearsal for actual labor. They can be triggered if mother or baby are very active, if someone touches the mother’s belly, when the bladder is full, after sex or because of dehydration.

How do I Know if I’m Having Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Generally, Braxton Hicks contractions are weak and irregular, while true contractions will get stronger and closer together. In an effort to help determine if your contractions are Braxton Hicks or the real deal, there are a few things to look for:

  • Time between contractions: You can time your contractions from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. If the time between contractions is inconsistent, or if it does not get shorter, then you are most likely experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. If you are experiencing more than four contractions in a one hour period, it is a good idea to contact your OB/GYN or midwife.
  • Varying strength of contractions: If the contractions that you are experiencing are not consistently getting stronger, that is another sign to point you away from actual labor contractions. True contractions will get stronger as your body prepares for delivery.

What if I’m Still Unsure?

If you are still unsure as to whether or not the contractions you are experiencing are true contractions or Braxton Hicks contractions, it’s a good idea to call your doctor just to make sure.

Here are a few additional resources regarding Braxton Hicks contractions:

The Bump-Braxton Hicks Contractions

What to Expect – Braxton Hicks Contractions

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – How to Tell When Labor Begins

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