As a mom-to-be in your third trimester, we know you’re eyeing that circled date on the calendar, aka your due date. You’re likely “over it” when it comes to being pregnant and are ready to bring your little one into the world. When labor begins, you typically know because, among other changes, you’ll start to feel contractions. Contractions occur when the cervix dilates and the uterus starts to contract at regular intervals. However, your uterus can contract on and off before your true labor begins. This is known as false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions.
How do you know if it’s a false alarm? False labor, or Braxton Hicks contractions, are irregular contractions that are normal but painful. They usually occur more toward the end of the day, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). How do you tell the difference between true labor and false labor? Here are a few things about your contractions to pay attention to help decide if it’s Braxton Hicks contractions vs. true labor.
False labor contractions are more irregular while true labor contractions come at regular intervals. False labor contractions do not get closer together, while true labor contractions get closer together as time goes on.
When you are moving around, pay attention to whether or not your contractions change. False labor contractions usually stop when you change movements to either walking or resting. True labor contractions continue, despite changes in movement.
Contractions are painful, but if you’re experiencing true labor, they will increase in strength. Braxton Hicks contractions are usually weak and then don’t get stronger. Also, they could be strong, and then get weaker. If the contractions increase in strength, you’re likely in labor.
Pay attention to where you’re feeling the pain. False labor contractions are felt in the front, while true labor pain starts in the back and moves toward the front.
Of course, if you are feeling any pain, we strongly recommend that you contact your healthcare provider. They will answer any questions you may have about timing, movement, strength or pain and can give you the best course of treatment or procedure to be followed.