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:
Locate the pain, if it's:
Time the contractions, if it's:
Lay down on your left side, if it's:
Drink lots of water, if it's:
What helped you know the difference between real labor and just your body gearing up for it?
Image via chrisamichaels/Flickr