Inside: Braxton Hicks contractions can often cause confusion. Use these tips to tell the difference between false labor and true labor.
It was 5 am and I started feeling contractions.
But then I started wondering, are these Braxton Hicks or contractions? Is this really labor starting or am I psyching myself out?
I was 2 days past my due date so I figured this must be it…
But before I could let myself get all excited and start calling everyone, I had to be sure. I didn’t want to call everyone and end up just having Braxton hicks…
Every muscle spasm you feel you wonder, is this it?? Is labor starting?!
Even if you’ve had more than one baby, labor doesn’t always start the same way, which can make it hard for you to know if it’s false labor or true labor.
(Do you know these 10 early signs of labor?)
The main reason I was so unsure if I was in labor or not with my second baby, was because with my first baby, my water broke before I ever had any contractions.
Although it’s disappointing if you want labor to start and you’re not experiencing active labor contractions, there’s good news!
False labor, (also known as Braxton Hicks) is still important because they prepare your body for actual labor. (source)
You may begin feeling these types of contractions as early as the second trimester and they tend to increase towards the end of your pregnancy.
While it may be alarming to feel any kind of contraction when you’re still early in your pregnancy, these are a normal occurrence in pregnancy.
However, if you’re ever unsure if what you’re feeling is normal, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
4 Ways To Tell The Difference Between False Labor and True Labor
1. How do the contractions feel?
If you’ve never had a contraction before, it’s hard to picture what they feel like.
To make it more challenging, your contractions may feel different each time you’re in labor. So even if you’ve had a kid it can still be difficult to tell you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks or real labor!
Generally though, Braxton Hicks don’t feel as intense as real contractions. Some women describe them as feeling like menstrual cramps, while others describe them as back pain.
For me, it felt just like my stomach/uterus was having an intense Charlie horse. It would get really tight for a few seconds, and then loosen back to normal.
Real contractions feel more intense and that intensity increases when you’re in true labor.
I remember very distinctly feeling like my cervix was widening when I was in true labor. It was a sharp, intense pain in the cervical area that would come each time I had a contraction.
Some women have described the feeling as intense back pain or abdominal pain.
2. Can you stop them?
Typically you can stop false labor contractions by doing things like changing positions in bed, takes a shower, or putting your feet up.
Braxton Hicks can happen if you’re dehydrated so if you aren’t sure if you’re in active labor, try drinking water and resting. If it’s false labor, the contractions will stop.
True labor contractions won’t stop no matter what you’re doing.
3. Are the contractions consistent?
False labor contractions will be irregular. For example, they aren’t coming every 5 minutes, lasting 30 or more seconds, and they aren’t getting closer together. Or they may happen consistently for a little while and then stop and start up again at random times.
Real contractions will come in regular intervals, and continue to happen regularly when you’re in true labor.
4. The intensity of the contractions
When you first go into active labor, it’s not like the movies where you’re immediately in horrific pain, sweating, moaning, and ready to push the baby out two minutes after your contractions start.
Real contractions can start off feeling mild, and for many women Braxton Hicks contractions feel mild too, so it’s hard to know in the beginning whether you’re actually in labor.
It’s possible your false labor contractions could be painful at first, but they’ll diminish in intensity over time.
However, in true labor, your contractions will get stronger or sharper and require more effort or concentration on your part to get through them. Oftentimes you’ll have to concentrate so much to get through a contraction that you won’t be able to speak.
When it comes to telling the difference between false labor and true labor, it’s easy to get confused especially if you’ve never had a baby before.
But even if you’ve had a baby it’s still confusing because your contractions may not feel the same in every labor.
When I wasn’t sure whether or not I was having Braxton Hicks or true active labor contractions, I tested it out by doing things like taking a shower, moving around, and drinking water, which is how I figured out I was in true labor!
But I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t know the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions.
Now that you’re armed with these tips on how to tell false labor from real labor, you can more confidently tell when your baby is on the way!