True or False?

In 1872, an English obstetrician named Dr John Braxton Hicks described the “false contractions” that occur before a woman really goes into labour. Now that you know why these annoying and sometimes frightening contractions have such a fancy name, you can go on to find out the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions.

Genuine Contractions Braxton Hicks Contractions
  • Regular, 5-10 minutes apart
  • Gradually increase in frequency
  • 30-70 seconds long
  • Persistent
  • Irregular
  • No change in frequency
  • Shorter than 30 seconds, inconsistent in length
  • Slow down or stop
  • Increases with time
  • Frequently weak, or strong followed by several weak contractions
  • No increase in strength over time
Position changes
  • Continue to progress in spite of change in position
  • Slow down or stop when you change position
  • Can start in the back, then move forward
  • Usually felt only in the front

When in doubt, go to the hospital

If you are quite sure you’re really in labour, go to the hospital. Even if you’re wrong, the doctor will be able to set your mind at rest. If you’re right, you’ll be glad you didn’t have to give birth in the car!

If you’re less than 35 weeks pregnant and your contractions are occurring 4-6 times an hour, about 30 seconds each time, rest, change positions frequently and drink some water. Go to the hospital if the contractions continue after this.

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