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Braxton Hicks contractions are the body's way of preparing for true labor. These practice contractions are normally painless and are not associated with any dilation of the cervix. They usually ease up with activity or a change in position.

Braxton Hicks Contractions Explained

Braxton Hicks contractions are the contractions that start occurring during the final months of pregnancy. In a sense, they are nothing more than practice contractions. These contractions are different from true labor contractions in that they are not associated with dilation or thinning of the cervix. Instead, Braxton Hicks contractions are seen with false labor. They are your body's way of getting ready for true labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular in occurrence and are normally painless. These contractions appear unpredictably and sporadically, and can be rhythmic and of mild intensity. In the last month of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions may occur more frequently -- sometimes every 10 to 20 minutes -- and with greater intensity than before.

Braxton Hicks Versus True Labor Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions typically differ from true labor contractions in the following ways:
Braxton Hicks Contractions
With Braxton Hicks contractions:
  • The contractions don't get closer together
  • They don't get stronger
  • They are usually felt only in the front
  • The contractions ease up with activity and are relieved with a change in position
  • The cervix doesn't change with contractions.
True Labor Contractions
With true labor contractions:
  • The contractions do get closer together and become more painful
  • They get stronger
  • They start in the lower back and spread to the lower abdomen or vice versa
  • The contractions intensify with activity and are not relieved with a change in position
  • The cervix thins and dilates.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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