SERVICES > PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH > LABOR & DELIVERY > BRAXTON HICKS OR ACTUAL LABOR?
You've heard the story before. A woman is nearing her due date and starts feeling contractions, so she rushes to the hospital. After being examined and waiting in the hospital to see if the contractions progress, she is told to go home because she was not in true labor.
If you're pregnant, it's important to be aware of the signs of labor. Doing this can help you distinguish between Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor) and true labor.
Many women experience Braxton Hicks contractions as their due date approaches. These are uterine muscle contractions that occur during pregnancy that are not signs of labor.
They can continue for hours or days, but do not progress, cause your cervix to dilate or lead to birth. These contractions can become more frequent and intense later on in pregnancy and are often the cause of women visiting the hospital before labor starts.
Unlike labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions:
Many times, changes in position or increased activity cause Braxton Hicks contractions to slow down or stop.
If you are unsure of what type of contractions you are having, call your doctor.
While the signs of labor vary widely from woman to woman – even from pregnancy to pregnancy – certain symptoms indicate that labor has begun.
Become familiar with the following signs of true labor so you will be better able to tell when your labor has begun. The main signs of actual labor include:
Also, the pain that accompanies uterine contractions generally begins in your upper abdomen and can radiate into your lower back.
When you begin to feel contractions, you should write down (or have your spouse or significant other write down):
In true labor, contractions develop into a regular pattern, with shorter intervals between them. They usually last more than 30 seconds and get longer and stronger with time. They will continue regardless of activity changes.
Writing things down will help you know for sure whether they are really getting stronger and closer together.
Some women have contractions for days leading up to childbirth, while others feel only slight pressure and pain.
If your contractions get longer, stronger and closer together, it's probably time to go to the hospital. There your doctor can examine your cervix to determine if you're in labor.
During labor, your cervix will dilate, as well as become thinner and softer in preparation for your baby’s arrival.
If you think you might be in labor, call your doctor.
Monitoring your signs and symptoms may help you determine when labor begins. But you can't know for sure until you get to the hospital to be examined.
Whether or not you are in labor, always contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
And if your at 37 weeks of pregnancy or earlier and are experiencing labor symptoms, you could be in preterm labor.
Read more about
labor and delivery and what to expect at Wellmont's birthing centers.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists –
American Pregnancy Association –
Braxton Hicks contractions. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/braxton-hicks/. Updated January 2014. Accessed January 5, 2015.
False labor. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/falselabor.html. Updated January 2014. Accessed January 5, 2015.
Labor and birth. Women's Health – US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/labor-birth.html. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed January 5, 2015.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012-16 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.
Call anytime for an OB/GYN referral. Nurses are available now to help you find a doctor and answer your questions.
Or call a nurse: 877‑230‑6877.
Wellmont offers childbirth, baby care, breastfeeding and new sibling classes in the Tri-Cities.
You clicked on a link that will cause you to leave myWellmont.
For security purposes you will be signed out.