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Braxton Hicks or Early Labour? How to tell when its the real deal

You may have heard the term Braxton Hicks Contractions or Practice Contractions as they are sometimes referred. Knowing the difference and what to look out for can help reduce anxiety and make an informed decision about when it’s time to head to the hospital.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

It’s a tightening in your abdomen that comes and goes.  Your very clever uterus “practices” for labour by contracting to help prepare itself for birth. Think of it like training for a marathon. Your uterus needs to train for the big event. So it uses these “practice contractions” to help tone the muscles and may also help to gently prepare the cervix.

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

It feels like a tightening sensation across your tummy. If you place your hands on your bump when you feel he tightening happening, you will probably feel the hardening of your uterus.

The difference between Braxton Hicks or Practice Contractions compared to active labour contractions is that they come and go irregularly and usually last around 30 seconds. They aren’t painful although can be a little uncomfortable.

Its important to note that these Practice Contractions don’t cause labour to commence and aren’t a sign that its about to either. It’s simply your body’s way of preparing itself.

When do the start?

Braxton Hicks actually start from early on in your pregnancy but its likely that you wont feel them until the second trimester.

Usually first time pregnancies can feel them from around 16 weeks, however for subsequent pregnancies you may feel them a little earlier. Its completely normal however to not feel them at all. Some women simply will not experience Braxton Hicks.

The key differences between labour pain and Braxton Hicks.

Braxton Hicks Contractions:

  • Usually will stop if you change positions or the activity you were doing
  • Are not painful
  • Are irregular – they come and go without consistency
  • Last for about 30 seconds
  • Will happen only once or twice an hour in most cases a few times a day (more during late pregnancy)

Braxton Hicks Contractions Don’t:

  • Get stronger over time
  • Get closer together
  • Get stronger or more frequent when you walk

How else to tell the difference between labour and Braxton Hicks?

Try having a shower or warm bath or change positions. This will usually cause the Braxton Hicks to stop, where as “real labour” would not be affected by this.

If the pain or discomfort eases off, its most likely Braxton Hicks and not real labour.

In the late stages of your pregnancy you may (or may not) experience Braxton Hicks contractions more often. Some women will experience them as often as every 10-20 mins. This is a sign that your body is preparing for the labour and is known as prelabour.

When do I call my midwife?

If you are 37 weeks or under, and experience pain, pressure or discomfort in your abdomen, pelvis or lower back, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately as this may be the first signs of labour.

If you are 37 weeks or over (also known as full term) you may want to wait it out a little longer. If your waters break or contractions are strong and 5 mins apart, then it’s time to get to the hospital.

How can I reduce the discomfort of Braxton Hicks?

  • Changing positions if lying down or seated
  • Taking a slow walk
  • Take a warm bath or shower
  • Prenatal Massage

Its a great time to practice any breathing techniques you may have learned during these “Practice Contractions”.

How can I help support prepare my body for labour?

High Quality Raspberry Leaf Tea is a must do for any Mums to be in the third trimester.  Its been known for hundreds of years to help women gently prepare the uterus for childbirth.

It works by strengthening and toning your uterus which can help you achieve more effective and efficient contractions. Like any muscle in the body, training, strengthening and conditioning you will be more able to manage the challenges that wait.

Raspberry Leaf Tea is also thought to help reduce bleeding after the birth but helping your blot to effectively clot and also stimulate your milk supply to come through.

We recommend our CAPACITEA blend. 1 Cup a day from 27 weeks then gently increasing that to 3-4 cups a day by week 35.