Is It Braxton Hicks, Prodromal or Real Labor?

I'm a rare creature and never really felt contractions. In fact, I had my first child still without really feeling a single one. Tons of back pain, yeah, but not contractions. Second go, again, none. I tried pushing on my belly when I'd get a tiny strange sensation to see if it hardened, but felt nothing either, but that itty bitty sensation was all the contractions I got, up until I was around 8cm dilated. THEN I finally felt them, and felt them hard.

So for me, there was no "Is this labor? Or are these Braxton Hicks?" concerns. There's also prodromal labor, that are real, functional contractions that can REALLY feel like labor but aren't. How can you tell the difference?


Braxton-Hicks are "practice" contractions that happen throughout your pregnancy, and can happen in more regular or strong manners the closer you get to giving birth, but it's not 'real' labor, and generally won't be confused as such.

Prodromal labor is "practice" labor, but it can continue for weeks on end. Sometimes it's confused as real labor, then thought to be stalled real labor, but you've got to remember even real labor can start and stop, allowing mommy to rest before crucial intervals.

So, if you're starting to have things pick up and you're not sure if it's prodromal labor or the real thing, there's some ways to find out:

Try walking, if it's:

  • prodromal labor, contractions will feel weaker and slow down.
  • true labor, contractions will feel stronger and time between will shorten. Don't wear yourself out, though.

Locate the pain, if it's:

  • prodromal labor, the pain will be in the lower abdomen.
  • true labor, pain can be in the back and increase there, or spread around to the whole abdomen and even the legs.

Time the contractions, if it's:

  • prodromal labor, the contractions will be relatively regular, and not continue to increase in speed or duration, likely not getting closer than 7 minutes together.
  • true labor, they will get longer and closer together.

Lay down on your left side, if it's:

  • prodromal labor, the contractions will lessen or stop.
  • real labor, there will be little to no change in duration or strength of contractions.

Drink lots of water, if it's:

  • prodromal labor, contractions can slow down or stop.
  • real labor, you'll be more hydrated but otherwise it'll change nothing.

What helped you know the difference between real labor and just your body gearing up for it?


Image via chrisamichaels/Flickr

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