10 Differences Between Real Labor Pains And Braxton-Hicks Contractions

Dry runs help you get ready for something like a performance or a big event. The same can be said about Braxton-Hicks contractions; they’re like practice runs for pregnancy, but they’re not the real thing which makes them a bit tricky to figure out.

But how are they different from actual contractions?

1. When Do They First Occur

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In a normal pregnancy, a woman can start having contractions as early as the second trimester or later in the third trimester. In contrast, Braxton-Hicks contractions usually come around the 37th week of pregnancy. If these occur earlier, you might be at risk of preterm labor.

Frequency always matters…

2. How Often Do They Come

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Contractions caused by Braxton-Hicks happen without warning, occasionally happening with no regular frequency pattern, often lasting 30 seconds. Normal contractions come around at regular intervals, getting closer and closer together in time.

Durations can be a gamechanger…

3. How Long They Last

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Real pregnancy contractions only last shortly, spanning from 30 to 70 seconds at a time. Ones caused by Braxton-Hicks tend to happen longer sometimes, lasting from less than 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Sometimes it’s not just a feeling…

4. How They Feel

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Real contractions usually cause a tightening, waving sensation in the belly, becoming more painful over time. On the other hand, a false contraction also has the same squeezing feel but doesn’t cause any kind of pain.

Movement can have subtle meanings…

5. Where They Are

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Usually, true labor contractions start in the lower back part, shift to the front, and linger for a while despite movement. A false one is concentrated in the front part and goes away when you change positions.

Expect some weird sensations down there…

6. Pelvic Discomfort

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In pregnancies, the tightening and cramping contractions can be felt even in the lower abdomen and the pelvic area. It doesn’t cause pain most of the time, but it can be quite uncomfortable and strange for some.

Colors can tell a story…

7. Vaginal Discharges

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When you’re in actual labor, you might notice reddish or pinkish vaginal discharge called bloody show. A false pregnancy contraction doesn’t usually cause any discharges, but they have a distinct brown color if there are.

Ever heard of the water that keeps on breaking?

8. Presence Of Amniotic Fluid

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One sure sign that labor is finally on its way is the presence of amniotic fluid, colloquially termed “water breaking.” The amniotic liquid is usually odorless, so it’s a false alarm if you detect any other odor.

This might be the only time you’d be happy to have these two…

9. Nausea & Vomiting

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Nausea and vomiting during contractions are part and parcel of pregnancies, happening even during labor itself from the first few weeks. If you don’t experience these, it’s most likely a Braxton-Hicks contraction.

But those aren’t the only stomach problems you’ll be having…

10. Diarrhea

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The mother-to-be might experience loose stools or diarrhea with their contractions days before the actual labor. It’s the body’s way of clearing the bowels so that the uterus can contract easier. False labor doesn’t cause any stomach problems.


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