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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.