There are two different types of contractions. These are

  • Braxton Hicks  also known as false contractions. These prepare the body for labor and delivery.
  • Labor contractions  signal the beginning of childbirth


What causes contractions ?

Braxton hicks contractions : These often and thins the cervix. They tend to increase weeks right before delivery . Braxton hicks is characterized by the following :

  • tightening of the uterine muscles at irregular intervals or a squeezing sensation in your lower abdomen and groin
  • you may barely sense these contractions , feeling only a painless tightening. However, at other times they  may be strong and painful
  • these contractions are unpredictable and tend to occur in the afternoon and evening.  Women who are tired  or have had  a lot of physical activities during the day are more likely to experience Braxton hicks

Labor contractions :  These  signal the beginning of child-birth. They come at regular intervals , usually moving from the back to the lower abdomen. These contractions last between 30 to 70 seconds and get stronger and closer together over time.


The exact cause of contractions  in unknown. However these signs may help you know that labor is near.

  • increased vaginal discharge that is clear, pink or has a tint of blood. This occurs a few weeks or even hours before labor
  • feeling that the baby has settled lower in the abdomen. This can also occur a few weeks or hours before labor
  • your fluid leaks or water gushes out of the vagina. This is also known as water breaking and occurs at the start of labor

Preterm labor

This is regular , painful contractions that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Preterm labor can happen  to any woman and there is no one cause for this type of labor.


What to do if you feel you’re in labor

Towards the end of your pregnancy, it is common to experience contractions. If you are not sure what it is, it is better to go to the hospital to find out. The health care professional may need to perform a cervical examination to find out if you are in labor or not.


When you start feeling contractions,  do the following :

  • time the interval
  • record how strong it is
  • move or walk to see if the contractions stops when you change positions

The following could indicate false labor

  • irregular intervals
  • contractions stops when you change position
  • contractions don’t get stronger or closer in intervals

Contact your doctor if you are having contractions that are strong and occurring at regular intervals especially before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Other signs that may warrant a visit to the doctor include the following :

  • experience vaginal bleeding
  • your water breaks
  • contractions that are between 5 and 10 minutes apart
  • you can no longer walk or talk during contractions
  • if have any concerns about you or your baby

Content Sources

Contractions. March of Dimes. Accessed September 8, 2015
Pregnancy signs and labor. WebMD. Accessed September 8, 2015

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