During pregnancy, it's important to understand the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions are often referred to as "practice" or "false" contractions. They are sporadic, irregular, and usually painless. These contractions help prepare your body for labor by toning the uterine muscles. You may feel a tightening sensation in your abdomen that lasts for around 30 seconds to two minutes. They can occur at any time during pregnancy but are more common in the third trimester.
On the other hand, real contractions indicate that labor is starting or progressing. Unlike Braxton Hicks, real contractions follow a regular pattern, becoming stronger, longer, and closer together over time. They typically start in the lower back or abdomen and radiate towards the front. As labor progresses, these contractions become more intense and painful.
To differentiate between Braxton Hicks and real contractions, consider their characteristics:
If you're unsure whether you're experiencing Braxton Hicks or real contractions, try changing your activity level. Braxton Hicks may subside or lessen with rest, hydration, or a change in position. Real contractions, however, will continue regardless of what you do.
It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to labor. If you're uncertain about your contractions or have any concerns, contact your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance based on your specific situation and help determine if it's time to go to the hospital.