Braxton Hicks Contractions

Recognizing false labor pains

Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labor pains, are a common symptom of pregnancy which can occur throughout your term. They are spontaneous and irregularly occurring contractions of your uterus which may lead you to believe you're going into labor. Though they can become frequent and bothersome, Braxton Hicks contractions are harmless and may actually be helpful in the long run, as the uterine contractions of false labor are believed to prepare your body for the real delivery.


Known triggers of false labor pains include high levels of physical activity, dehydration and sexual intercourse. They may also occur if you or other people have been touching your belly a lot, and when your bladder is full. As with many pregnancy symptoms, every woman's experience is different. Some women may feel Braxton Hicks contractions quite early and frequently throughout their pregnancies. Some don't feel them until the last few weeks or days, and others never have false labor pains at all.

Differentiating Braxton Hicks from True Labor

Braxton Hicks contractions are usually intermittent and inconsistent in magnitude and severity, or they may not be painful at all (though still perceptible). True labor pains, on the other hand, grow longer, closer together and more painful as they continue. If the contractions you're feeling seem to ease off when you change position or activities, or when you have a glass of water, it is probably false labor.

During the latter stages of your pregnancy, it may become more and more difficult to tell the difference between false labor pains and real ones, but the single most important clue that it's time for the baby to be born and that you should get to the hospital is a progressive increase in the duration, intensity and frequency of your contraction pain. If you have contractions that steadily increase in duration, intensity and frequency before your 37th week of pregnancy, you need to seek medical attention right away, as you might be experiencing premature labor. Lower back pain can also be a sign of preterm labor; true labor contractions are often felt in the back as well, whereas Braxton Hicks with back pain is less common.

Alleviating False Labor Pains

There are several remedies you can try if you are sure you're not going into true labor and want some relief from your Braxton Hicks contractions. Changing up your position or choosing a different activity can help. For example, if the false labor pains strike while you're lying down, try taking a walk; if they occur when you're active, try resting.

You can also take a warm, soothing bath to ease your muscles, and try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, stretching and/or massage to help overcome the discomfort. Also, because dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks pains, drinking one or two glasses of water may provide some relief.