Braxton Hicks also known as “false labour pains”, are the body’s way of preparing you for true labour. They are normally felt in the second and third trimesters. Women have likened them to menstrual cramps or a specific tightening of the abdomen that comes and goes.

During a Braxton hicks’ contraction, the muscle fibres of the uterus tighten and relax. The exact reason behind why this occurs is unknown, however scientists believe that if the fetus is under stress due to increased maternal activity, a full bladder, or maternal dehydration the muscle contractions will increase blood flow to baby therefore increase oxygen content to bub.

What is the difference between Braxton hicks and real contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are:

  • Irregular in duration & intensity
  • Infrequent
  • Non-rhythmical
  • They do not increase in intensity or duration.
  • Does not cause dilation of the cervix.

True contractions are:

  • Regular
  • Increase in frequency.
  • Follow a rhythmic pattern.
  • Increase in intensity and duration (no more than 90 seconds)
  • Causes dilation of the cervix

Questions to ask yourself if this is Braxton Hicks or true labour?

  1. How often are my contractions?

– if they are irregular and not getting closer together, they are most likely Braxton Hicks

  1. How long are my contractions?

– Braxton Hicks are unpredictable and can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. True labour contractions last between 30 and 90 seconds

  1. Where am I feeling the contraction?

– Braxton Hicks are often felt in the front of the abdomen

  1. Do my contractions change with movement?

–  Braxton Hicks contractions can stop with activity level.

When to seek medical guidance?

If you experience any of the following you should seek/contact a healthcare provider

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking of fluid from the vagina
  • Strong contractions every 5 minutes for an hour
  • Contractions that you cannot “walkthrough”
  • A noticeable change in fetal movement or if there are less than 10 movements every 2 hours
  • Contractions that are increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration
  • Abdominal pain that is intense, constant, and hardening of the uterus for an extended period without relief
  • UTI’s
  • Preeclampsia: high BP, swelling of the hands and feet, abdominal pain under the ribs

It is always better to be safe and seek GP or emergency guidance if you are concerned about your abdominal pain or contractions.

Until Next time,



Raines DA, Cooper DB. Braxton Hicks Contractions. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: