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Braxton Hicks Or Labour? How Will I Know?

Many first time moms have concerns that they’ll start to experience the sensations of labour, rush into the hospital only to be told it’s wind… or Braxton Hicks (aka ‘false labour’). As a midwife, I prefer the term ‘warm-ups’ – there’s nothing false about what your body is doing to prepare you for birth.

The uterus is an amazing muscle that is going to do great work for you on the big day Just like any other muscle, it’s a good idea to warm it up before putting it to work. These warm-ups or ‘toning’ surges are getting everything ready behind the scenes.

Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular and don’t settle into any kind of pattern. They can be set off by doing too much, being dehydrated or they may simply be your clever body’s way of helping to shift your baby into a better position before labour.

Some moms experience regular Braxton Hicks in the third trimester when the bump turns to a basketball (rock hard) and is accompanied by a tightening feeling. The real deal will generally become more regular and settle into a pattern. They may increase in intensity and require more focus (Braxton Hicks can feel quite strong too).

You’ll also have other signs that these sensations may not be warm-ups, such as blood-stained mucousy show or your waters release. It’s not unusual for a first time mom to experience these warm up like sensations for more than 24 hours as labour starts, but if you’re unsure try the following:

  • Have something to drink – warm-ups can be caused by dehydration
  • Empty your bladder – a full bladder can sometimes bring on warm-ups
  • Change position or take a walk – true labour will continue through position changes
  • If you’ve been overdoing it lie down and rest – true labour will continue when resting

Don’t hesitate to call your midwife or contact the labour ward if you have any concerns about what you’re experiencing.

Read Next: 10 Things You Really Need To Know About Labour

Read all about the signs of labour and what you can do to prepare for a positive birth with the Irish Better Birth Book available in all bookstores and online at GentleBirth.ie


About the Author

I’m Tracy Donegan, registered midwife and mum to 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve been working in Irish maternity services since 2005 and really enjoy helping Irish families have the best experiences possible. You may be familiar with my books – The Irish Better Birth Book and The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide, as well as the very popular GentleBirth Positive Birth app.

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