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How Will I Know When I'm Having Contractions?

I am 33 weeks pregnant and terrified that I am having real contractions versus Braxton Hicks. Can anyone tell me how I can tell the difference? Everyone says, "trust me, you'll know", but I am looking for something a little more descriptive. My stomach gets pretty hard but not consistently, it usually goes away when I am lying down but gets hard again when I stand up. Any words of wisdom?

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Hey J.!

I HATED hearing that from others.. trust me, you'll know! Yeah right!!! I was in a chat room while I was in labor and i didn't know. I thought I was just having some back pain from sleeping wrong. Fortunately, the women in the room told me I was in labor and i needed to call the hospital. Sure enough I was dilating and in labor!

This is my recommendation to you... braxton hicks are NOT regular contractions. They come and go and are relieved when you change positions. It sounds much like you are having this type of contraction.

The real deal will NOT go away no matter what you do and will be very rhythmic in timing. Keep a clock around you at all times because you will need to keep count of them. They will also decrease in time in between the contractions.

Don't be scared! I was terrified, but it was actually very easy. Use DEEP BREATHING relaxation exercises through them. Imagine your belly as a balloon and you're trying to fill it up and empty it each time. I used this and made it to a little over 6cms on my own. Then I chose to have the epidural because i was afraid if I went too far then I wouldn't be able to do it on my own. I might have though... it was actually very easy! :)

1 mom found this helpful

I think everyone feels contractions different because everyone's tolerance for pain is different. I have a high tolerance and my contractions felt much what you have described. The only difference in active labor was the frequency increased. The contractions increased to the point that they were back to back, and that was what became intolerable. I finally asked for an epidural, but unfortunately did not take effect. So if you are having braxton hicks and not feeling pain, you may be lucky to have a high tolerance for pain. Good luck.

I was forewarned that since my daughter was my first baby that I would rush to the hospital due to false labor...so, when I had hours and hours of "false labor" it finally started getting intense and I still waited to go to the hospital...swearing I wouldn't get turned away, ha! Several hours later, my daughter was born. Until it became intense, the first 7 hours were annoying, but livable.

However, we are all different. Don't worry about it though...just enjoy the process and your new baby to be!


When I started having my contractions, my husband called the hospital to see when we should go in so that I wouldn't be sent home. The nurse told him we should come in as soon as I couldn't speak through my contractions. I thought this was a little strange, but sure enough, a short while later, I was unable to speak during my contractions. So if you can still function during these contractions you're having, whether Braxton Hicks or not, I believe you're okay to just wait it out. If it would make you feel better, though, maybe you should call your doctor and see what he or she suggests...good luck!

I agree with all the moms that say trust me you will know. I had braxton hicks contactions and a lot of painful hardening of my tummy for the last 3 months and I was always terrified that it was early labor. My doctor told me that if there was no pattern (meaning you can get 1 in an hour and maybe 2 the next) it was probably braxton hicks.Also if pain subsided if you changed position or layed down it was also probably not labor.

All my sisters who had babies told me the same thing that I would know the difference and they were right. They said that it felt like menstrual cramps and that I would start feeling a little under the weather or feel flu like symptoms. The cramps also started coming regularly and got worse as time went by. They did not improve if
I changed position at all. Whent they started coming every 5-10 minutes for more than hour I
knew it was the real thing.

FYI I ended up having my baby 2 weeks early

Hi J.,
Congratulations on your pregnancy! After completing these steps im about to share with you, you will be able to tell if you are having false labors symptoms, or you are infact going into labor. If you are having contractions (in a pattern or not), try eating something. When in early labor, eating something is actually recommended to get your strength up for the long hours ahead. Try drinking water or a sports drink (instead of gatorade or propel try a drink called Recharge, sold at natural health food stores like Down to Earth. theres tons of more nutrients and less sugar in this than others). Drinking is also very important during labor. If you are still having contractions, try a bath/shower. If you are really in labor, you will continue with the contractions. If it is false labor, your contractions will stop. If you are still contracting, take a nap. I know it might be hard to fall asleep if you think you are in labor, but either way it will help. False labor, you will be getting more rest. Real labor, you will be resting up for all the strength you will need later.
Also try changing the positions you are in. If you are lying down, stand up. If you are standing, sit. Real contractions will not stop and continue to get stronger and stronger. If it stops when you change positions, then you are definately NOT in labor. Labor wont stop for anything when its ready.
I went to Bradley classes and absolutely LOVED every minute of it. I hope this helps. Again, congrats on your pregnancy and good luck!

I was in labor for 36 hours, I went on Thursday and delivered on Saturday.....and its so true "TRUST ME YOU'LL KNOW is the most sound advice you'll get!

Let us all know when you have come back to us!

Congratulations and we're with you!

Oh and because I really do care.....everything you've ever expected and everything you may have learned to prepare you for this life changing event - will go right out the WINDOW!

I'm just being honest, you'll be fine and our prayers are with you! I promise you this, when it is all said and done and you look into the eyes of the most beautiful baby you've ever seen, the feeling is absolutely amazing! True miracle of this life! And we'll be right there with you! God Bless and may you all live the lives DREAMS ARE MADE OF!

Hi J.! I am glad you are concerned. It's always better to be safe. Both of my kids were born at 36 weeks, and with both I had preterm labor. If you have tightening in your belly and it doesn't really go away after resting or lying down, then the rule is (this is from my doctor), if you have 5 or more contractions (pain or just tightening) within 1 hour, then call your OBGYN and go to your hospital maternity ward for monitoring. This happened to me with my first child at 27 weeks and my 2nd at 35 weeks. I didn't feel any pain, just the tightening. Turned out I was in labor way too early. Good thing I called my doctor and went to the hospital. When in doubt, just call your doctor. I hope everything works out for you!


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