The 5 Major Differences Between Braxton Hicks And Real Labor Contractions

by Leah Rocketto

Here’s an embarrassing story for you. The first time one of my friends posted about Braxton Hicks on her Facebook wall, I thought she was talking about an American Idol contestant. I have since learned a bit more about Braxton Hicks, the typically painless uterine contractions that many women start experiencing around the middle of their pregnancy. These contractions are just the uterine muscles flexing in preparation for the real labor to come.But as the due date draws near, women often has difficulties telling the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and the real deal.

And it makes sense. You’re likely primed and ready to head to the hospital at the first sign of actual labor (not to mention, you’re desperate to have the baby out of you), and Braxton Hicks can sometimes mimic that feeling. I mean, they’re all called contractions, right? Some confusion is understandable.

But fortunately there are some notable difference between Braxton Hicks and the oh-snap-the-baby’s-coming-now contractions. Factors such as pain, predictability, and strength will help you figure out what’s going on with your body. Of course, if there is any confusion or something feels off, you should give your doctor a call or head to the hospital for confirmation. But if you’re trying to save yourself an uncomfortable car ride, here is a quick rundown of the ways Braxton Hicks contractions differ from labor contractions.


Contraction Intervals

According to, Braxton Hicks contractions are not predictable and occur at seemingly random intervals. True labor contractions, meanwhile, occur at regular intervals. In fact, real labor contractions are so regular that you can track them with an app.


The Pain Levels

According to the Mayo Clinic, Braxton Hicks tend to feel fairly weak compared to real labor contractions. (Of course, it you’re a first-time mom you don’t really have a reference point yet.) If these do get stronger and painful, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider.


Time Between Contractions

While real labor contractions get real labor contractions get longer, stronger, and more frequent as the delivery progresses, the American Pregnancy Association notes that Braxton Hicks contractions don’t increase in frequency or duration. If you do not notice a pattern in occurrence and length, then you should wait on heading to the hospital.


Lower Abdomen Pain

Unlike labor contractions, which originate in the abdomen and move to the lower back, Preg Med pointed out that Braxton Hicks contracts tend to occur in the lower abdomen. The Braxton Hicks sensations also tend to be more stationary, so the pain will remain in one place.


Second Pregnancy Intuition

The Mayo Clinic noted that women in their second pregnancy may experience Braxton Hicks more than in their first. You may even notice them earlier during the second pregnancy, so pay attention to the occurrence in relation to your ter.

Images: george ruiz/Flickr; Giphy (5)