As you get closer to your due date, you’re probably starting to experience contractions. But are these true contractions or are they braxton-hicks? And what do true contractions feel like? You’re probably starting to wonder if there are any clear signs of real contractions versus braxton-hicks contractions.
Some women describe Braxton hicks contractions as tightening in the abdomen that comes and goes. Unlike true labor, these contractions are usually not painful and do not happen at regular intervals. They do not get closer together, do not increase with walking, do not last longer as they go on, and do not feel stronger over time as they do when you are in true labor.
Comparing real contractions with Braxton hicks contractions
Even though real labor and Braxton hicks contractions can feel the same, there are ways to tell them apart.
Firmness of the belly: With Braxton hicks contractions, only a portion of your belly gets hard. With real contractions, your entire belly gets as hard as your forehead.
Timing: While Braxton hicks do get rhythmic sometimes, (they’re every 7 minutes for an hour or two, for example) they don’t get closer together over time like true labor contractions do.
How they feel: Braxton hicks contractions are often painless, though some people say they feel like light menstrual cramps. You may also notice portion of your belly getting hard which can be an uncomfortable feeling. Some people say Braxton hicks feel like the baby curling up into a ball and then releasing. Real contractions feel like very strong menstrual cramps. You may also notice radiating pain in the back and/or pressure in the pelvis like the baby is pressing down. In addition, real contractions get longer, stronger and closer together over time.
What you can do to stop Braxton hicks contractions
If Braxton hicks contractions are very uncomfortable for you, there some things you can do to make them go away or ease off.
- Rest. If you are up doing a lot of physical activities, such as walking, cleaning or even exercising, this can jump start fake contractions.
- Drink a glass of water. Being a little bit dehydrated can cause contractions, so drink a full glass of water and lay down for a while.
- Lie on your left side. Laying on your side can help blood flow better to the baby, helping Braxton hicks contractions to subside.
If your labor is real, your contractions won’t go away by doing these things. Despite rest, the contractions will continuously get harder and shorter together.