Before "true" labor begins, you might have "false" labor pains, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These irregular and unpredictable uterine contractions (for example, intervals between contractions of ten minutes, six minutes, two minutes, eight minutes, etc.) are perfectly normal and might start to occur from your fourth month of pregnancy. There is no progression of labor. There is no progressive dilation of the cervix. There is no evidence of bloody show. Membranes have not ruptured. In short, they are your body’s way of getting ready for the "real thing."
False labor contractions can be a real drag, interfering with your sleep and making you tired and cranky. (Taking warm baths, taking a massage, listening to music, drinking plenty of liquids, and getting some sleep or rest can sometimes help.) You might also feel anxious, wondering when true labor will start.
Time your contractions until you get a sense of what's going on. And don't hesitate to call your doctor or midwife to check in if you're concerned, confused, or just need a little encouragement or reassurance.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions can be described as tightening in the abdomen that comes and goes. You may feel Braxton Hicks contractions during the third trimester or as early as your second trimester.
These contractions DO NOT
- get closer together
- last longer as they go on
- feel stronger over time
- increase when you walk
- cause any pain
They often come with a change of position and stop with rest.
Differences between “false contractions” and true contractions”"
They are regarding:
1. Timing of contractions:
- False labor — Contractions are often irregular and do not get closer together; they vary in length and intensity
- True labor — Contractions come at regular intervals and get closer together as time goes on. Contractions last about 30 to 70 seconds.
2. Change with movement:
- False labor — Contractions might stop when you walk or rest, or might even stop when you change position.
- True labor — Contractions continue, despite moving or changing positions; they get stronger with increased activity such as walking.
3. Position where it is felt:
- False labor — The contractions are felt in the lower abdomen and groin.
- True labor — The contractions and accompanying pain tend to begin high in your abdomen, radiating throughout your entire abdomen and lower back, or vice versa.
When to call your doctor
It is essential to call your health care provider at any time if you have:
- Bright red vaginal bleeding
- Continuous leaking of fluid or wetness, or if your water breaks (can be felt as a "gushing" of fluid)
- Strong contractions every five minutes for one hour
- Contractions that you are unable to "walk through"
- A noticeable change in your baby’s movement, or if you feel fewer than 6 to 10 movements in one hour