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    What's the Difference Between Braxton Hicks and Real Contractions?

    Updated 17 February 2022 |
    Published 27 December 2018
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

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    Anywhere from week 28 of pregnancy going forward, women start questioning whether the contractions they are feeling are normal. Lower abdomen pains during the first trimester are normal, but you should still know how to tell the difference between real and false contractions.

    What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

    Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false contractions, are the sensations your uterus produces in order to prepare for the labor. Your doctor will most likely inform you of Braxton Hicks and let you know to not concern over it. 

    Still, women who are at risk of premature labor, and women with other health risk factors affecting the pregnancy often worry about being unable to distinguish real contractions from Braxton Hicks.

    You can picture Braxton Hicks contractions as a way for your uterus to get in shape, to exercise, in order to prepare for childbirth. 

    Unlike real contractions, Braxton Hicks are weaker and last up to 30 seconds. 

    Typically, Braxton Hicks are the localized contractions of the sides of the uterus, rather than the front. However, as the belly already feels tight, it might be hard for you to distinguish whether your belly is tightening from the top downwards, or only on the sides. 

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    Braxton Hicks contractions can be repetitive but are not rhythmic, they do not get stronger. They appear randomly, or sporadically. 

    Most women get used to having Braxton Hicks in certain times of the day or in certain situations. For most women, the false contractions intensify when they're more active or get tired. Long sitting can also intensify Braxton Hicks, and they're frequent in late evenings.

    Since every woman has a different level of sensitivity to contractions and other sensations that occur inside the belly (gas, bloating, under-rib pains and stretching), Braxton Hicks will feel differently. 

    In general, you'll feel false contractions as a type of painless, numb pressure in your upper abdomen. If you're sensitive enough to distinguish that the cramping is happening at the sides of the uterus, good for you! If not, don't get alarmed. There are still plenty of ways and strategies for you to distinguish false from real con