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Braxton Hicks Contractions vs. Real Contractions

Ask yourself:

How regular are the contractions?

True Labor Typically occur at regular intervals that decrease over time (every ten minutes, every eight minutes, every five minutes).
False Labor
Sporadic, and with no predictable pattern.

Where do you feel them?

True Labor Start in the back and come around to the front (sometimes move from top to bottom).
False Labor
Generally centered in the abdomen or the groin.

Do the contractions change when you switch position?

True Labor Keep a steady pace, but may intensify when you move around.
False Labor
May stop or slow down when you shift your position or walk around.

How long does each one last?

True Labor About 30 to 70 seconds at the onset; progressively increase.
False Labor
Contractions usually vary in length and intensity.

Adapted from The Parenting Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth, by Paula Spencer with the editors of Parenting (Ballantine).