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Written by Karli Steenkamp 

Every pregnancy is different, whether it is your first or fourth, just like every woman is different too. Not all women experience all the symptoms of pregnancies and then you get women that experience them all. It can be quite an uncertain time in your life because you don’t know what to expect. Braxton-Hicks Contractions is one major cause of distress in parents-to-be because it often gets confused with real contractions. It is important to know the difference between these two, but each plays a vital role in bringing your baby into this world. 

Braxton-Hicks Contractions 

Braxton-Hicks can often be misinterpreted as real contractions and women can find themselves sent home from hospital because they are not really in labor.  There are a few differences between these two types of contractions. 

Braxton-Hicks Contractions are your body’s way of preparing and practicing for labor. It can feel like menstrual pains or a tightening in your abdomen. They do not last long and they are usually not painful, although they can be uncomfortable. You can experience Braxton-Hicks Contractions in your third trimester, but they can start in the second trimester. You do not need to worry that Braxton-Hocks Contractions will lead to labor; your body is practicing for when it really needs to start the labor process. It can happen quite often during the day. If you had a busy day and you experience Braxton-Hicks Contractions try and relax by putting your feet up or taking a warm bath. Changing positions can also relieve the contractions. 

The thing about Braxton-Hicks Contractions to remember is that the cramps won’t get worse and it won’t happen in regular sequence. They happen randomly and they are not too painful. Many women don’t even feel it or know what it is. 

Real Contractions 

You can go into labor any time from 37 weeks. Any real contractions before that time are known as pre-term labor. Real labor is intense waves of contractions that could start in your back and move down or start in your abdomen and move up. Unlike Braxton-Hicks Contractions real contractions can start lightly and get worse as time goes on. They can be timed, because they happen in a timed sequence and the times between them gets less. These contractions could last for about a minute each. Real contractions lead to labor, so it is important to contact your midwife or doctor to hear when you should go to the hospital. Labor can take hours, therefore doctors and midwifes suggest you only go to the hospital if your contractions are a certain amount of minutes apart. Every woman is different though and has her own medical history. Rather phone your midwife or doctor when you think you are in labor and they can guide you on the necessary steps forward.  

If you experience any contractions before 37 weeks, phone your doctor or midwife straight away to make sure that you are not going into early labor.  

Tips for Labor-Day

  • Have a journal where you record your contractions. This way you can compare them and decide which ones could be real contractions or Braxton-Hicks Contractions. 
  • Make sure your bags are packed by 34 weeks, just to be on the safe side. 
  • Talk through a Labor-Day plan with your partner or person you decide to have with you for this big occasion. You want to know who grabs the keys and who grabs the bags. Who is on stand-by to look after kids if you are not first-time parents.  
  • Have a route to the hospital as well as a back-up route for in case you are in labor in peak time traffic. 
  • Make sure the car is filled with gas at all times.  
  • Stay calm. It is exciting and soon you will meet your baby. 

It is an exciting time in your life but can be filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Talking with other women about their experiences can help, but also know everyone’s story is different. Your doctor or midwife is there to answer any questions you might have. Write questions down and ask when you go to your appointments. If you think you might be in labor, rather phone your doctor or midwife and they can talk you through it by asking you questions to identify if you are really in labor. This is a great experience and no matter how your baby gets into this world, enjoy the experience, it will be with you forever. 


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