Are these Braxton Hicks or Real Contractions?

Jul 4, 2020

Welcome to Home Postpartum Services, your trusted resource for comprehensive information on all things related to pregnancy and postpartum care. In this guide, we will help you understand the differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions so you can have a better grasp of what to expect during your pregnancy journey.

Understanding Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are often referred to as "practice contractions" or "false labor." These contractions are a normal part of pregnancy and usually start around the second trimester. Unlike real contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are typically irregular and don't lead to the onset of labor.

Although the cause of Braxton Hicks contractions is not fully understood, it is believed that they help prepare your body for labor by toning the uterine muscles. They are usually milder and shorter than real contractions, often described as a tightening or squeezing sensation in the lower abdomen.

Here are some key characteristics that can help you differentiate Braxton Hicks contractions from real contractions:

1. Regularity

Braxton Hicks contractions are typically irregular and unpredictable, occurring at various intervals. Real contractions, on the other hand, tend to become more regular, increasing in frequency and intensity as labor progresses.

2. Pain Level

Braxton Hicks contractions are usually milder and don't cause significant pain. They are often described as uncomfortable or mildly uncomfortable. Real contractions, however, become increasingly painful as labor progresses.

3. Movement and Position

Braxton Hicks contractions are generally felt only in the front of the uterus, and they usually don't radiate to other areas of the body. Real contractions, on the other hand, may start in the lower back and radiate to the abdomen.

Differentiating Real Contractions

Real contractions, also known as true labor contractions, are a clear sign that your body is preparing for childbirth. These contractions occur when the muscles of the uterus tighten and cause the cervix to thin and open.

It's important to be able to recognize the signs of real contractions so that you can distinguish them from Braxton Hicks contractions and know when it's time to seek medical attention or go to the hospital. Here are some key differences:

1. Regularity

Real contractions follow a regular pattern and become progressively closer together. As labor progresses, the time between contractions decreases, and their intensity increases.

2. Pain Level

Real contractions are often described as intense cramping or pressure in the lower abdomen and back. The pain gradually increases and may come in waves, with each wave becoming stronger and more painful.

3. Duration

Real contractions typically last longer than Braxton Hicks contractions. They may start off lasting around 30-60 seconds and gradually increase to 60-90 seconds as labor progresses.

4. Progression

The most significant difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions is that real contractions cause the cervix to dilate and efface, or thin out. If you notice a consistent progression in the dilation and effacement of your cervix, it's a strong indication that you are experiencing true labor contractions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or real contractions, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider. They can provide you with personalized advice based on your specific situation.

However, there are certain signs that should prompt you to seek immediate medical attention:

  • Strong, regular contractions that last more than 60 seconds
  • Contractions that are less than five minutes apart
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking of fluid or gushing of fluid from the vagina
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Severe pain or abdominal cramping

Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and what you experience may vary. It's important to trust your instincts and reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.


Understanding the differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions is crucial for any expectant parent. Being able to recognize the signs can help alleviate anxiety and ensure appropriate action is taken at the right time.

At Home Postpartum Services, we aim to provide you with the knowledge and support you need during this special time. We are dedicated to helping you navigate the joys and challenges of pregnancy and postpartum with confidence and ease.

For more information and expert advice, browse through our website or contact our team directly. We are here to assist you every step of the way!

Thomas Darcy
Great article! Understanding the difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions is crucial during pregnancy journey. 👍👶
Nov 8, 2023