I know from experience how frustrating it can be to have Braxton Hicks contractions, and wonder constantly if you're in labor. I’ll do my best to de-mystify these annoying contractions. And, I’ll give you some tips on how to tell whether they're the real deal.
Believe it or not, your uterus actually starts contracting very early on in your pregnancy. The contractions aren’t strong, and you don’t usually feel it until you’re pretty far along.
Braxton Hicks contractions are just your body’s way of preparing for real labor contractions, which is why they are sometimes called practice contractions.
Usually, they aren’t painful. They just feel like a tightening in your belly. They may be uncomfortable and at times might feel a bit intense, but they aren’t strong like true labor contractions.
If you've been pregnant before, you probably feel them more than you did the first time around. First time moms sometimes don't even feel them at all. When I was pregnant with my third baby, I distinctly remember feeling them in my first trimester! Talk about annoying.... They didn't hurt at all, but I felt them on and off throughout the entire pregnancy.
Sometimes at the end of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions get very intense, leaving you wondering if you're in labor. When they are continuous and strong like this, but they are erratic, it's often called false labor.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you decide whether they're Braxton Hicks or labor contractions.
If you are having contractions and you’re not sure if they’re real, change your activity. If you’re up and about, try lying down for a while. If you’re relaxing, try getting up and taking a walk.
If you are in real labor, changing activity will not stop the contractions. They will continue to progressively get stronger and longer.
To track your contractions, time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. Keep track for an hour or two and see if they are progressively getting closer.
The key difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labor contractions is consistent progress. True labor contractions will consistently get stronger, longer and closer together.