False Labor (Braxton-Hicks contractions)

Braxton-Hicks contractions, also referred to as false labor, are very mild, irregular contractions that may feel like menstrual cramps.

Many women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions as their due date approaches. Unlike labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular; unpredictable; and felt in the abdomen, not the back. They do not become more frequent and intense over time, and they are not accompanied with other signs of labor, such as light vaginal bleeding and water breaking.

Many times, changes in position or increased activity cause Braxton Hicks contractions to slow down or stop.

Monitoring your signs and symptoms may help you determine when labor begins. When you begin to feel contractions, you should record their frequency, length, and intensity. In true labor, contractions develop into a regular pattern, with shorter intervals between them. They usually last more than 30 seconds and get longer and stronger with time. They will continue regardless of activity changes.

While the signs of labor vary widely from woman to woman, certain symptoms indicate that labor has begun. It is time to go to the hospital if:

  • Contractions are regular, get more painful and come closer together over time.
  • You have persistent lower back pain, sometimes accompanied with a premenstrual feeling.
  • Your water breaks, even if you are not having contractions.
  • Experience bleeding from the vagina.