How to know if you’re having real contractions

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How to know if you’re having real contractions
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Braxton-Hicks contractions can appear before the final stages of pregnancy.  These are false contractions that can help to prepare the body for giving birth.  But how can you recognise real contractions?  Read on to discover more. 

Real contractions

Contractions happen when the muscles around the uterus start to contract and relax with the aim of helping the baby get out of the uterus.  These contractions can happen at any point during pregnancy but they are not really useful until when the birthing process starts.

Real contractions can be extremely painful.  Although in general the pain in centred around the abdomen and the lower back it can also vary depending on the woman.  Some can feel really strong pains on their side or on their thighs.

The birthing process really begins when the contractions are regular and constant.  This allows the cervix to dilate.

Braxton-Hicks contractions

This type of contraction doesn’t have a real purpose. Some doctors see this type of contraction as a type of “general repetition“, while others lean towards the idea that it is a way to maintain the tone the uterine muscles.

These contractions are still not thought of as real contractions although they can of course cause serious pain for future mothers.

These types of contractions are often felt around the sixth week but are are not visible until the second or third trimester.  By placing your hand on their lower stomach, the future mother can feel their uterus contracting and their stomach hardening.  The discomfort felt is often very similar to painful period pains

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The 5 major differences

Braxton-Hicks contractions can be confused with real contractions especially if it is your first pregnancy or they appear during the final stages of pregnancy.   Here are some of the main differences to look out for.


Real contractions last for between 30 and 70 seconds and take place at regular intervals which is not the case for Braxton-Hicks contractions.  These contractions do not follow a regular pattern and don’t last longer than 30 seconds.


At the beginning of labour, real contractions are not very numerous and then start to increase gradually as the baby gets closer.  Braxton-Hicks contractions don’t occur more than one or two times per hour.

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Although they can be uncomfortable, Braxron-Hicks contractions generally don’t cause painReal contractions can be extremely painful especially in the last few moments.

Where there is discomfort

For false contractions the discomfort is felt most often at the front of the abdomen.  Whereas the pain of real contractions can stretch as far as the legs.


Changing your position or moving around can sometimes stop Braxton-Hicks contractions whereas this does not alter or affect real contractions.

Sources : Medical New Today and GYN&CO

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