What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
If you feel tightening or pressure in your abdomen (tummy) during your pregnancy, you may be having Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks are sometimes called ‘false’ or ‘practice’ contractions. They’re a normal part of pregnancy that can come and go.
Braxton Hicks contractions don’t cause labour and aren’t a sign that labour is beginning.
If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or actual labour, contact your doctor or midwife.
What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?
Braxton Hicks contractions feel like the muscles across your belly are tightening.
Braxton Hicks contractions come irregularly and usually last for about 30 seconds. However, they can last for up to 2 minutes. While they can be uncomfortable, they usually aren’t painful.
When do you get Braxton Hicks contractions?
In late pregnancy, you may experience Braxton Hicks contractions more often.
How are Braxton Hicks contractions different from labour pain?
There are some differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labour contractions. Your doctor or midwife will consider these differences when deciding whether you’re in labour.
Braxton Hicks contractions:
- don’t open or dilate your cervix
- usually last for about 30 seconds
- can be uncomfortable, but usually aren’t painful
- come and go at irregular times
- usually occur no more than once or twice an hour, a few times a day — until late in your pregnancy
- usually stop if you change position or activity or go for a walk
- usually stop if you have a warm bath or shower
Real labour contractions:
- open or dilate your cervix
- last 30 to 70 seconds
- are painful or require all of your attention
- become very regular, and get closer together as time passes
- last longer as time passes
- get stronger or come more often when you walk
- get stronger over time
Should I call my doctor or midwife?
Call your doctor or midwife or go to the hospital if:
- your waters break
- you have contractions that are getting stronger, closer together and more regular
At any stage of pregnancy, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you:
- have persistent pain in your abdomen (tummy)
- have vaginal bleeding
- are concerned about your baby’s movements
- feel very unwell
If you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or midwife for advice.
How can I ease the discomfort?
Braxton Hicks contractions are normal and don’t need treatment. But if you feel uncomfortable, you can try:
- lying down or changing position
- taking a walk
- relaxing in a warm bath
- having a massage
- staying hydrated
- urinating (weeing)
It may help to practise your breathing exercises during your Braxton Hicks contractions.
Resources and support
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: December 2022