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Braxton-Hicks—or real labor?
Q: How can I tell if my contractions are real or are they the Braxton-Hicks contractions all my friends keep telling me about?
Julianna Bakersfield
A: Dear Julianna,

Braxton-Hicks contractions are “real” contractions (uterine muscle tightenings) that don’t result in cervical shortening (effacement) or cervical opening (dilation). If you have been having painless, infrequent contractions for weeks, without delivering your baby, it’s likely that your contractions have been “Braxton-Hicks.”

However, if you have contractions occurring more than four times an hour, especially if they are associated with pelvic pressure, vaginal discharge, or pain, you will need to be evaluated by your health care provider. Many women develop pre-term labor (labor before 37 weeks) which may be indistinguishable from Braxton-Hicks contractions. Your provider can examine your cervix or place you on a monitor to decide whether you are in early labor.