Braxton Hicks Contractions vs. “Real” Contractions

May 18th, 2009

img_3750-1x13This post is from, another informative site for women on bed rest. I thought that is was such an excellent post that I wrote the owner of the site and got permission to reprint it here. This is great stuff. Enjoy!!

A lot of women will give you the evil eye if you tell them the painful contractions they have been having aren’t real. And it’s easy to dismiss your contractions as “Braxton Hicks,” but a manual or ultrasound examination of the cervix is the only way to tell if contractions are resulting in cervical change, which is the definition of “true labor.”

Also called “practice contractions” or “false labor,” Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular, and they may stop when you change position, lie down, or drink a few glasses of water. The amount of discomfort or pain can vary from woman to woman. “True” contractions will come at regular intervals, become more frequent, and won’t stop with a change in position or by lying down or drinking water. Contractions may feel like a tightening of your belly, lower back pain, or menstrual cramps. Or all three at once! True contractions will cause your cervix to soften and dilate, which is wonderful if you are at 37 weeks or more. It means that the labor process has begun (though it could be hours, days, or weeks until you are in active labor) . If you haven’t made it to 37 weeks yet, call your doctor immediately to see if you should come in to have your cervix checked.

If you are waiting for a return call from your doctor, drink multiple glasses of water and lie down on your left side.

“I have been having contractions for ____ minutes/hours, at ____ minutes apart. I have been lying down on my left side for ____ minutes/hours and have had ____ ounces of water during that time. The contractions feel like ____ and I’d rate the pain as a ____.”


Pregnancy brings so many aches and pains that it can be difficult for you tell when they are normal or when they are a sign of something not being right. Round ligament pain results from the stretching of the uterus, which is completely normal. But, this type of abdominal pain and sometimes spasms can feel similar to menstrual cramping, which is a sign of preterm labor. Round ligament pains may come on suddenly with movement and may be sharp, or they can stick around and feel dull and achy. The pain will be along the bikini lines, frequently on the right side, and can cause discomfort from the groin to the hips. With the cramping of preterm labor, the pain will be in the area above the pubic bone and below the belly button. You may also be having pain in your lower back. You may have other signs of preterm labor as well. Please click here for more symptoms.

“I am having pain in my abdomen/hips/groin/pubic area. It started hurting ____ minutes/hours ago. It does/doesn’t feel like menstrual cramps. I am/am not having lower back pain.”


Bleeding is common, but it is NOT normal, sister! Consider it a warning sign and call your doctor at the first sign of bleeding. In the first trimester, bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or other complications. In the second and third trimesters, bleeding can result from placenta previa or placental abruption, or from other threats to the pregnancy. Bleeding following a manual exam or intercourse is generally acceptable, but never hesitate to call your doctor to describe your symptoms. If you are unable to reach your doctor, go to your hospital’s emergency room or labor and delivery department.

“I have been bleeding for ___ hours, and changing my pad or pantyliner every ___ hours. I do/don’t have a fever. I have pain in my ____. I am/am not having cramping. I am feeling tired/dizzy/faint.”


One way to tell if the wet sensation you’re feeling is urine or amniotic fluid is to take note of the smell. If you’ve ever changed a diaper, you know the smell of urine. The smell of amniotic fluid isn’t quite so easy to detect. It may be sweet smelling, or odorless. If you aren’t sure, consider the quantity and frequency. A small trickle that doesn’t stop is likely to be amniotic fluid and so is that big gush you see in movies . Occasional wetness is likely to be urine. If you have been having contractions and the contractions suddenly become more intense when you stand up or use the bathroom, that also can be a sign that your water has broken. Your doctor can do a simple test in the office to determine if any amniotic fluid is present and can also discuss with you any signs of preterm labor.

“I think I may be leaking amniotic fluid. I first noticed it ____ and it keeps going. Should I come in to have you check the pH or do a ferning test?”


A white, thin or milky discharge called leukorrhea is normal in pregnancy, and abundant! It can be odorless or have a mild, inoffensive smell. But, if it is causing itching, burning, or inflammation, it is more likely to be a yeast infection and you should contact your doctor. Also call your doctor if the discharge is any color other than white or it has a bad smell. It may be bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted disease.

If you notice that the discharge has become clear and sticky like egg whites, and you are not yet 37 weeks, it may be a sign of preterm labor. The mucus plug may be deteriorating as the cervix begins to soften and dilate. The mucus plug can be expelled gradually, or in one or more gel-like globs that can appear clear, white, or yellow and may be tinged with blood.

“I noticed a large glob of mucus in the toilet/in the shower/on my toilet tissue. The color was ____ and I did/didn’t notice any blood.”

Never think you are being a nuisance; your medical professionals are experts and are there to help.

If your symptoms continue, call again or go directly to the Labor and Delivery department of your hospital. Think of it as an emergency room for pregnant women!

5 responses to “Braxton Hicks Contractions vs. “Real” Contractions”

  1. KrisBelucci says:

    Hi, cool post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for writing.

  2. I think I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz it’s really helpful.

  3. CrisBetewsky says:

    It’s a pity that people don’t realize the importance of this information. Thanks for posing it.

  4. Penelope Seedorf says:

    This is SO good! And your posts are all so useful and well done. An awful lot to offer, and I appreciate it.

  5. Connie Koshy says:

    It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can see a lot of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really great.

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