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Many a red-faced mum-to-be has been turned away from the delivery ward thanks to Braxton Hicks contractions. These are irregular, usually painless, uterine contractions that tend to occur from around the middle of your pregnancy (although they can start much earlier) and increase in frequency as you approach your due date. They’re the effects of the muscles of your womb contracting – typically for between 30 and 60 seconds at a time, but sometimes for up to two minutes or so. That’s not to say that everyone feels them, and there’s no need to worry if you don’t.
Your Braxton Hicks contractions are probably getting stronger and more frequent. If you're unsure whether things are getting serious, here's a quick 'compare and contrast' list to help sort the real deal from the (infuriatingly named) 'false labour'.
False labour: Irregular contractions that don't get closer together.
True labour: Contractions become regular and get closer together.
False labour: Last for about 15 seconds.
True labour: Last for 30 to 70 seconds.
False labour: You'll feel contractions in the front.
True labour: Contractions start in the back and move round to the front.
False labour: Contractions may stop if you move around.
True labour: Contractions carry on whatever the heck you do.
False labour: The contractions mostly stay the same.
True labour: The contractions get stronger... and stronger!
When your contractions come between 10 and 20 minutes apart, it's time to get your antenatal team involved.
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