Difference between Braxton Hicks & Labor

Contractions are a part of pregnancy which causes discomfort to the mother. Labor contractions are a sign of delivery seeking immediate medical help.

What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?

They occur during the final stages of pregnancy and are sometimes called ‘False labor’ as they give you a false sensation of having real contractions. They typically occur in your abdomen without any prior sign or may even last the entire day. Symptoms that you are having Braxton-hicks contractions include:

  • Frequent contractions
  • Contractions getting stronger or closer together
  • Contractions that go away after you empty your bladder
  • Change with activity
  • Are usually irregular

What are Real Labor Contractions?

Real contractions occur when the body releases oxytocin (a hormone stimulating your uterus to contract) and are a signal that the body is in labor. Those that begin before the 37th week are signs of preterm labor while for many women they start around the 40th week of pregnancy. Also, they tighten the top section of the uterus for pushing the baby down into the birth canal for delivery. Real contractions are painful over time, and their symptoms are:

  • The appearance of bloody show (clump of pinkish mucus)
  • The feeling of the baby dropping to lower belly
  • Water breaks
  • Are more regular
  • Contractions Last Longer

What to do if you have Contractions?

If the contractions are constant, you are likely to experience true labor requiring medical help.

Braxton-Hicks Contractions v/s Real Contractions

  • They (Braxton-Hicks contractions) start as early as the second trimester but are more common in the third trimester whereas real contractions start after the 37th week of pregnancy or might be earlier signaling preterm labor.
  • Braxton hicks contractions occur from time to time on the other hand real ones happen at regular intervals getting closer to the labor date.
  • Tightening of the uterus is due to Braxton hicks contractions while real contractions create pain which comes in waves that gets intense over time.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions last up to 2 minutes, and real contractions range between from 30 to 70 seconds.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are for few hours whereas labor contractions remain constant.
  • Labor contractions come and go at regular intervals while Braxton Hicks are uneasy to determine becoming irregular
  • Braxton Hicks contractions become active with your activities like for example you will feel the contractions more while standing all day long or sitting quickly.
  • Early Labor contractions are more painful than Braxton Hicks

When to call the doctor?

Contact the doctor if you have frequent painful labor contractions occurring from time to time clubbed with symptoms like:

  • Low back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Feeling pressure in the pelvis
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Water breaks
  • Severe pain in the abdomen


Braxton hicks are more frequent during late pregnancy also called as pre-labor which is not easy to differentiate from early labor. If contractions continuously go for more than 4 hours, consulting your doctor at the earliest can save you from premature delivery of the baby.


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