Aside from all the happening while expecting, once a woman enters the final stages of pregnancy, she is bound to experience contractions as an alarm or sign towards the arrival of her little bundle of joy. She starts to ponder whether these contractions are real or fake. However, these contractions may be not signalling towards labour but are mere false alarms.

Nevertheless, it is essential for first-timers and experienced ones to understand these false alarms and be able to distinguish between them from the real ones.

Typically, these false signs are better known as Braxton Hicks and should not be mistaken for the lower abdomen pain evident in the first trimester. However, before jumping in, it is to understand that everybody is different, and therefore the degree of each sign can also vary.

In this article, we will be discussing the signs, symptoms and how you can easily set apart fake contractions from the real ones – let’s get into it!

An Overview of Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks, named after the doctor who was the first to describe them, are the false contractions or labour pain in the uterus. They can also be taken as sensations that aid in delivering the baby.

Though Braxton Hicks ensures delivery preparation, and it’s a way for your body to brace for the day you have to do it, that doesn’t mean that it is a sign of labour. For women who are at the risk of giving birth prematurely or have other complications, it is hard for them to differentiate between the two.

These contractions happen from time to time, and it could be that you happen to be one of those who don’t feel at all. Instead, Braxton Hicks can feel the uterus tightening or a sudden shake to the core that would take your breath away. Remember that these false contractions are not efficient enough to push out the baby. Nonetheless, Braxton Hicks is uncomfortable but painless.

Signs of Braxton Hicks

Commonly, Braxton Hicks are located at the sides of the uterus, unlike in actual labour, where it occurs in the front. Some women are reported to have said that they feel like menstrual cramps.

A giant sign that gives the fact that you are undergoing Braxton Hicks is that they are not regular or coordinated. The contractions don’t tend to follow from the top to the bottom of your belly; instead, they are often localised at a single spot. Another sign of the fake contractions is that they are not rhythmic yet repetitive and heavily spontaneous.

Braxton Hicks do not worsen with time; instead, they lessen or stop happening all over if the body position is moved. These contractions are standard from the second trimester and shouldn’t be a significant concern.

Signs of True Labor

Now that we have gone through the signs of Braxton Hicks, let’s also take an overview of the actual symptoms or signs of labour.

A real contraction, which indicates the possibility of going into labour, creates pressure on the cervix. However, pain is the earliest sign that you will go into a complete labour process. The degree of pain may vary in women, but it usually occurs in the lower pelvic region.

As for the actual contractions persist, and the interval between them gets shorter until the delivery, unlike Braxton Hicks tends to fade after a specific period. A physical sign of going into true labour is the iconic breaking of the water, also known as the amniotic fluid.

More signs include the pinkish lumps of mucus that is bloody when you use the restroom; this event is widely known as the bloody show. Lastly, you may feel this weird feeling that the baby has dropped lower in your belly. Remember that real contractions come in a wave-like motion. They rise slowly, hit the peak, and then go away.

Why does Braxton Hicks Occur?

Simply put, just like any other condition or disease, there is always a reason why a particular situation happens or takes place. In the case of Braxton Hicks, some triggers tick off and force them to manifest themselves.

The primary cause as to why Braxton Hicks occurs is dehydration. Even the slightest of dehydration can bring them. This usually occurs if you happen to be a busy woman and forget to drink water. If you happen to live in quite humid areas, you must be extra careful and cautiously monitor the amount of water you are consuming.

You can also experience Braxton Hicks if you have been sick recently and caused nausea or vomiting, leading to dehydration. Foetal movement is another cause. Sometimes, once a baby has kicked or performed many activities, these alarm-like contractions happen.

Apart from the baby’s activity, a mother can explain why she has been going through these contractions. An example of it could be having her recently moved to a new house or lifting any weights. In addition, some researchers claim that engaging in sexual activities can trigger Braxton Hicks.

When Should You Give a Call to Your Doctor?

a pregnant lady consulting with her doctor

If this happens to be your first pregnancy, then you might feel on edge when the time starts to close in. Thus, it would help if you always remained calm and collected. If you think you are having real contractions, call your doctor or the health care provider right away.

In addition to these contractions, you might experience the following signs if you are genuinely going into labour. Symptoms include; bright vaginal bleeding, continuous feeling wet down there, and if your contractions occur within small intervals.

You should immediately grab your hospital bag and seek medical assistance if you have lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, change in the vaginal discharge, cramping, and a sense of pressure in the pelvis. It could be that if you are going through real contractions, it’s finally time to greet the little one in this world.


It is normal to mix up Braxton Hicks and real labour contractions. However, the biggest giveaway is the repetitive contractions and in an in-sync rhythm. That is when you are actually experiencing the real contractions. 

Fret not because you’ll be able to distinguish when the time comes. Follow your instincts, and if you still have doubts, don’t hesitate to call your doctor right away and discuss any other problems you might have.