How can I tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions? | by Samantha N Patwardhan, MD

Braxton Hicks

Posted on Sun, Nov 11, 2012

OB/GYN, Partners in Women’s Health, Rose Medical Center

Samantha N Patwardhan, MD, OB/GYN Partners in Women’s Health Rose Medical Center

Samantha N Patwardhan, MD

Braxton Hicks contractions are very common during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, but some women can experience them much earlier in their pregnancy. Sensations associated with Braxton Hicks include a tightening feeling that is more uncomfortable than painful. It also may be more obvious after prolonged periods on the feet.

To find some relief, women can lie down on their left side, soaking in a warm bath, increase their fluid intake, minimize activities that require them to be on their feet and abstain from intercourse.

It can also sometimes be difficult to discern between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor contractions, especially before 37 weeks of gestation. If a woman is at this point in her pregnancy and experiencing five or more contractions per hour, it’s recommended they see their doctor. I suggest the same for women with a history of pre-term labor or other conditions that may indicate early delivery.

For women carrying very close to their due date, it’s normal to have Braxton Hicks and contractions inter-mixed. When true labor contractions are every five minutes for an hour, it’s likely time to prepare for delivery.

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