What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

When it comes to pregnancy, contractions are an entirely normal thing. However, before the “real” labor takes place, there’s a good chance you’ll experience “false” labor contractions. Their medical name is Braxton Hicks contractions (BHC) and they’re usually a cause of concern of many future moms.

What are they? What do they feel like? Are they dangerous? How to tell the difference between them and true labor? If you’re searching for answers to these questions, you are in the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll be taking a closer look at this sensations and help you learn how to deal with them.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Also known as false labor, the BH contractions are sensations produced by the uterus to prepare the woman for labor. Your health-care professional will probably inform you of them and tell you that they’re nothing to worry about.

However, future moms with various health risks concerning pregnancy and those who are at risk of premature labor often worry about being unable to tell the difference between false and true contractions. The easiest way to picture this sensation would be to imagine your uterus getting in shape and exercising for the real deal – the childbirth. Unlike the true contractions, the BH ones are significantly weaker and rarely last longer than just 30 seconds.

Typically, this sensation is localized to the uterus’s sides, and not to its frontal part. However, it can be pretty challenging for a woman to distinguish whether her belly is tightening only on the sides or from the top downwards. Although these kinds of sensations can be repetitive, they don’t get stronger with time and are not rhythmic.

Most women tend to get used to having them in certain situations or during certain parts of the day. For most moms-to-be, these false contractions tend to increase in intensity when they’re overly active or tired. Furthermore, they can be frequent in late evenings and can be caused by prolonged sitting.

What Do Braxton Hicks Feel Like?

Due to the fact that not all women have the same levels of sensitivity to feelings that take place inside the stomach (stretching, gas, bloating) the Braxton Hicks will feel differently for each woman.

Generally speaking, you will feel this sensation as something of a numb pressure happening in your upper abdomen. Do not be alarmed in case you’re unable to distinguish on which side of the uterus you are feeling the cramps. Fortunately for future mothers, there are still a lot of other strategies and ways to recognize the false from true contractions.


What Are Real Labor Contractions?

On its own, a “true” contraction occurs when the uterus cramps from the top, and, in that way puts pressure on the cervix.

This will cause the cervix to shorten, which eventually leads to dilation. Once the full-term labor finally arrives, a majority of women prefer for it to be over as fast as it is possible. If there’s a risk of premature labor, however, a future mom should learn more about the “true” cramps so that she could be able to recognize them. Have a look at some of their common characteristics:

·        Low-Pelvic Pressure

Normally, the false contractions do not cause the feeling of pressure in the pelvic or low-abdomen area. However, in case you feel like something is putting pressure on your pelvis from inside, there’s a chance that the contractions are “real.”

·        Pain

Even though the intensity of pain varies significantly among women, the “true” cramps are often painful.

·        Rhythmic Repetition

Cramping that leads to labor is more frequent than just 4 or 6 per hour. Real contractions tend to repeat every 10 minutes, with this timespan getting shorter and shorter as the childbirth is closing in.

·        Effect on the Cervix & Bleeding

Not only do real labor cramps affect the cervix opening, but they’re also accompanied by various labor symptoms, such as bleeding.

·        Persistence

Regardless of resting or changing positions, the “true” cramps persist as time passes. In case they just won’t go away, it’s probably the time to pick up the newborn essentials and have someone drive you straight to the hospital.

How Do I Tell The Difference?

There are a few different ways to track the cramps and differentiate the true from the false ones. Here are some guidelines:

·        Timing

Are your cramps repetitive or regular? As we already said, the Braxton Hicks ones are random, which means that you will not notice them repeating after 10 or 20 minutes. The real contractions, on the other hand, tend to repeat every 10-20 minutes.

·        Consistency

False pressure usually goes away if you get some rest, usually after half an hour. Moreover, its intensity will decrease if you drink some water and empty your bladder. Real contractions are a whole different thing – resting won’t stop them.

·        Low Abdomen Pain

Real contractions are typically accompanied by low abdomen pains – these vary from light to severe pain. The BH ones, on the other hand, simply cause discomfort.

·        Lower Back Pain

Some future moms experience lower back pain during the “true” cramps. In case you’re already suffering from lower back pain, you’ll find that distinguishing it from the contraction pain is quite easy, as the latter one is more intense and sharper.

·        Duration

Braxton Hicks rarely last more than half a minute. The cramps that lead to labor extend to a whole minute, and, in some cases, even longer.


While Braxton Hicks cramps can be quite annoying and uncomfortable, they are, actually, perfectly normal and they’re not dangerous for the mom or her baby. As you can see from above, it is entirely possible to distinguish them from the sensations that lead to labor – they’re not as painful and tend to occur only in the upper abdomen area.

To relive Braxton Hicks, remember to get some rest and drink fluids. If none of these steps work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing real contractions and are nearing labor – that’s when you should immediately contact your health care provider.


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