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Braxton Hicks or True Labor Contractions?

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How Do Braxton Hicks Compare to True Labor Contractions?

To figure out if the contractions you are feeling are the real thing and you're going into labor, ask yourself the following questions.

How often do the contractions happen?

  • False Labor: Contractions are often irregular and don’t get closer together.
  • True Labor: Contractions come at regular intervals and last about 30-70 seconds. As time goes on, they get closer together and stronger.

Do they change when you move?

  • False Labor: Contractions may stop when you walk or rest, or may even stop if you change positions.
  • True Labor: Contractions continue despite how you move or change positions. They also continue when you try to rest.

How strong are they?

  • False Labor: Contractions are usually weak and don't get much stronger. Or they may be strong at first and then get weaker.
  • True Labor: Contractions get steadily stronger and stronger.

Where do you feel the pain?

  • False Labor: You usually feel it only in the front of your abdomen or pelvis.
  • True Labor: Contractions are more intense and may start in your lower back and move to the front of your abdomen. Or they may start in your abdomen and move to your back.

I Hate to Bother My Health Care Provider With 'False Alarms.' When Should I Call?

Talk to your doctor early in pregnancy about what may or may not be normal and reasons you should call. (This is very important!)

If you're not sure what you're feeling may be labor, call your doctor or midwife. They should be available any time to answer questions and to discuss your concerns about whether or not your contractions are signs of true labor. Don't be afraid to call. Your doctor or midwife will ask you some questions and may want you to be evaluated.

Absolutely call your doctor or midwife right away, at any time, if you have:

  • Any vaginal bleeding
  • Continuous leaking of fluid, or if your water breaks (can be a gushing or a trickling of fluid)
  • Strong contractions every 5 minutes for an hour
  • Contractions that you are unable to "walk through"
  • A noticeable change in your baby's movement, or if you feel less than 10 movements every 2 hours
  • Any symptoms of true labor contractions if you are not yet 37 weeks
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on July 05, 2014
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