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False Labour/ Painful Braxton Hicks - in what way are they different to Labour

16 replies

Wills · 03/08/2003 16:34


I'm 37 weeks today and last time dd was very late, induced and obviously didn't want to come out. I'm therefore trying like mad to assume that this one will also be late and trying to make plans for 5 weeks time rather than 3 etc. Having said all that I had an incredibly painful braxton hicks today. It wasn't uncomfortable - it was grab husband's leg (he was driving), puff loudly and clench teeth painful. The pain shot down both my legs and really felt like a full blown contraction. We both then waited in anticipation for the next hour but of course nothing happened .

I have a number of questions:

  1. Does this mean something is going to happen eminently? (don't want to get my hopes up to high because otherwise it could be a really long 5 weeks ).
  2. Is this false labour?
  3. Is this a really strong Braxton Hicks instead?
  4. Doesn't labour normally start slowly and progressively get stronger?

    Sorry if I sound niave but I've always assumed (hoped) that an induced labour would not really be like a natural one.
OP posts:
pie · 03/08/2003 18:25

I heard that in the last month Braxton Hicks can become painful because the baby is bigger and presses on the pelvis as well as abdominal organs.

When I had DD I certainly found that number 4 on your list was I would think that you would have more contraction sensations if you were going into labour. That is the contractions wouldn't stop, kwim?

motherinferior · 03/08/2003 18:30

My BH all through my first pregnancy really hurt - I wonder now whether they were in fact just 'ordinary' contractions - and I have to say dp and I spent the best part of a day trying to work out whether I was in fact in labour or not, because I'd read everywhere that 'I'd know'. Which I was... I think you could be. But on the other hand I think the whole thing is incredibly confusing - my second labour started with a completely unheralded waters breaking (over two weeks early) and no contractions at all. Best of luck. Do let us know!

princesspeahead · 03/08/2003 19:02

never gone into labour naturally wills (induced both times) so I can't help you! but I guess it would be odd to have one huge contraction and then nothing. hmmmm.

I told you, no help at all! sorry, I'll go now.

gingernut · 03/08/2003 20:00

Wills, I had very painful BH about a week before I went into labour with ds, at one point they were a minute long and 5 mins apart and went on for some time! They started suddenly and then stopped suddenly, whereas the first contractions of my labour were quite mild, but once they started they just never stopped. And the BH also felt different to the contractions of labour, the pain was associated with his head grinding in my pelvis (IYSWIM) whereas the labour pains were muscular. Does that make sense? I don't know if that helps you really, hope it does! Good luck with the birth, whatever happens.

pupuce · 03/08/2003 20:48

Not sure but it seems that it's one of those freakish one... it can mean baby in 5 days or in 5 weeks...
Of course you know you need many long ones to dilate !
On the positive note I am one of those who believe that this sort of pains will help your endorphin levels because (I presume) you would not use any pain relief and therefore get your body to develop its pain killing mechanism...


boyandgirl · 04/08/2003 09:46

I found that BHs were more all over my belly, whereas 'proper' contractions were distinctly lower down, especially at the beginning. I think labour can sometimes start quite suddenly with your second child, but I'm not sure whether BHs have any significance there. Certainly the BHs were more often as you describe: 'Omigod stop everything now!', but labour contractions didn't reach that intensity for an hour or so. I also had some BHs even during the labour itself.

Katherine · 04/08/2003 10:08

Sorry to disappoint Wills but my BH have been coming in painful clumps from about 36 weeks. I usually get a batch mid afternoon, midevening and then just after I've gone to bed. Often they are so strong I get all excited and think this is it - but as you know I'm still waiting. So no I don't think it means its imminet although I really wish I could say otherwise. Often now they are accompanied by what I can only describe as really strong downward pressure. As if my body or the baby is pushing down. It gets to a point when I'm almost holding my breath thinking "This is it , go on pop" as my waters broke at the start of both my other labours. but then it just stops

I'd say that there is not much difference between these and the ones I felt in my 2nd labour (1st labour ones far more intense) so maybe I am describing false labour rather than BH? Only difference I can see is that one ends in a baby and the other in frustration!

Bekki · 04/08/2003 10:13

Same problem here Wills. i've been having v. strong BH throughout and now I'm getting close I'm wondering whether i'll know the difference as I was also induced first time. I'm quite glad because it means that my body is at least trying to prepare for labour this time. But I'm very worried in another sense that I wouldn't know that i was in labour. I'm just assuming my body will let me know when the time is right. But then again you hear so many stories of a baby just appearing after a few BH.

elliott · 04/08/2003 10:19

All I can say is that I knew when labour started that it was different....(well I guess technically it was prelabour as the contractions did go away again after about 12 hours - but only for a few hours) And of course established labour was a whole quantum leap different in terms of the pain...
Mine were very similar to boyandgirl in that the Bh were 'all over' tightenings and the real thing was more like period pain cramping.

Bekki · 04/08/2003 10:20

Good point about the downward pressure Katherine. I've just noticed I'm having alot of that pressure also, I'd feel a little clueless trying to describe it to my midwife but I'm assuming its just the BH getting stronger and probably nothing to get concerned about yet. Its probably best Wills to prepare everything early and then forget all about it, focus on 5 weeks and then if it does come earlier it will be a welcome surprise.

Eulalia · 04/08/2003 21:22

I've had two babies and the first came naturally. Second was induced and very late but was really easy, quicker than the first but not too quick and labour was progressive but then again I only needed one dose of prostin gel and nature did the rest. Don't assume that this labouar will be the same as the last as every one is different. I did have Braxton Hicks but not strong and they didn't seem to mean labour was imminent - good luck with the birth

ninja · 05/08/2003 08:43

I had Alot BH contractions throughout the pregnancy and agree with elliot that they were more overall tightenings - they took my breathe away but I knew the real thing when it came, more period like. Saying that I had what felt just like a real one a couple of weeks before she came and I remember wondering if that was when the head engaged -

Wills · 05/08/2003 14:03

OK, so bags are packed now all i have to do is sit out the next 4 and half hot weeks . Mw today echoed all your statements, especially the bit about it being extremely feasibly for me to have these sensations for the next 4 weeks etc - ugh. Had three in succession this morning and my hopes of course immediately went up again - ah well. Little one will come sometime soonish I supose

OP posts:
Teletubby · 05/08/2003 14:10

I found that my Braxton Hicks got more frequent and powerful towards the birth but could only differentiate them from real contractions by regularity and increasing pain. It could well be that your body is preparing for things to happen soon! I know that when i did go into labour i kept assuming that it was a Braxton Hick and ignored it........i nearly had my baby in the car park! Just be vigilant in checking for regularity!!

Girly · 05/08/2003 14:18

I too had very strong braxton hicks contractions from week 36 onwards, they would last for a good few hours and regularly too, sometimes every 6 mins, was in and out of labour ward as well as MW coming to the house, the way i coped was to go to bed, take 2 paracetamol and they would stop.

However, they were so frequent in the last week that 1 got to 3-4 cms and all the toing and froing was exhausting, in the end 1 week before due date my MW broke my waters and the real thing kicked in straightaway, 4 hours labour start to finish, quite easy just managed on gas and air so not that bad really.

I would advise taking it easy and resting lots as any sort of activity would set mine off, ie walking for more than 20 mins, housework etc. Its a good excuse to relax (if you can - easier said I know). I found it bloody frustrating.

rainbow · 09/08/2003 16:51

I had bad Braxtons on the sunday. DS2 was born in 3 hours the following Wednesday. Fingers crossed Wills

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