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How do Braxton Hicks compare to actual labor contractions?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
This is my first baby, so of course I don't know how labor will REALLY be, despite reading a bazillion books.

Can any Mamas help me (and other first-timers) by comparing their Braxton Hicks with their actual labor contractions? One thing that worries me is that most sites and some books say that Braxton Hicks are usually painless, but labor contractions are painful. Well, sometimes my BH hurt! That worries me when thinking about labor contractions! Can you compare/contrast for us?

Thanks Mamas!
post #2 of 22
Hmmm, I'm not the best one to contrast, because I do Hypno for painfree childbirth. Basically, my ctx during labor feel pretty much like my BH do, except that the intensity increases and they become something I need to focus with to get through easily.

Some women say that the difference is where they feel the pressure or pain. I've heard some say that BH feels like an overall tightening whereas a ctx feels painful down low in the uterus sometimes stretching in a band around the back.

Others say that their BH sometimes feel like that, too.

Bottom line is that at some point, the BH become ctx. Sometimes it's noticeable other times it's not.

I promise you, you WILL know when you're in true labor. Have you read about the different stages of labor? Perhaps that will help answer some of your questions. Remember, first timers usually take on average 17-18 hours of labor. So, somewhere in there, you'll realize that you're not just having a lot of BH, but instead, it's true labor!

Wishing you a wonderful happy gestation and a smooth peaceful labor and delivery.
post #3 of 22
For me, 'real' contractions were very much like intensified menstral cramping. (Quite intensified )

It surprised me, actually how much they differed from my B/H. Also, I had B/H all over my belly, down lower, sometimes just part of my belly. . .

But labor pain for me was lower, and more crampy. Of course every mamma/baby is different, and of course it probably depends in baby's position. Best of luck and love to you!

post #4 of 22
My BH's were very strong and sometimes hurt when I was pregnant with baby#2. When labour first started I thought they were more BHs, but then I noticed how regular they were, for a period of hours, and a relaxing bath didn't slow them down. When labor pains become very intense, they aren't, IMO, very much like BH anymore. They're like swimming in the waves, and you ride each one, totally focused on keeping your head above water. Just when you think you're hopelessly lost at sea...transition turns into pushing and you have a baby!
There it is, my poetic metaphor.
post #5 of 22
For me they were very different. I had b/h for months and they were occasionally painful and very much annoying and uncomfortable. I don't think I had any the day I went into labor but I woke around midnight in full blown active labor so didn't have the latent stage labor at all (unless you count the months previous). It made for a short labor therefore I'm welcoming them this time! When the first cxt. hit it woke me up and I didn't know what was going on but when the second came a few min. later I very much knew this was labor. I was more excited at first since it meant an end to all the discomfort - funny as it also meant more discomfort to come. I'm homebirthing this time - a big reason as the cxt didn't hurt until I got to the hospital : Not being able to move will make that happen.
post #6 of 22
i found b/h ctx felt like my whole uterus was tightening, but it wasn't painful at all. i didn't have very many, i think i only got them after sex for some reason.

real labour ctxs felt like the most painful menstrual cramps i ever could have imagined.

post #7 of 22
I have to agree with pp's when they say that you will know when you are in "real" labor. For lack of a better way to describe it. I am also with some of the pp's who said that their BH cntrx were an overall tightening of the uterus, but not really painful. Whereas my labor cntrx were very menstrual cramp like. I also had back labor with ds, so it was menstrual cramps with the added bonus of feeling like baby was descending through my spine instead of the birth canal. My labors go fast though, so the intensity of my cntrx once they get going is pretty strong.

Not sure how much help that will be for you.
post #8 of 22
With my first baby, I had tons of painful BH (as with my 2nd & now my 3rd pregnancies too!). When I went into labor with her (my 1st), which I did 3 times prematurely, each time my labor started it was hard for me to tell whether it was labor at all because it just felt like more BH. The only way at all I figured it out all 3 times was watching the clock & realizing that they were coming at regular intervals. After many hours of that (the 3rd time, when my labor couldn't be stopped & I birthed), the ctx just became more & more intense & painful, but still felt relatively like my BH did. They just continued to get stronger until I had to work HARD to bear them.

Then, with my 2nd, I was expecting the exact same thing. I had the same painful BH through my pg & would watch the clock to see if labor was beginning when I had many. Then came the day that I thought I was having pretty painful intestinal cramps for a couple hours. That's exactly what it felt like, nothing at all like my BH, so it took me 2 hours before it dawned on me that these "cramps" were coming every 10 minutes!! :LOL I had no idea, I was expecting to feel BH, not those low intense cramps. That labor progressed fast & felt more like super intense cramps, not the BH I'm used to at all. It's weird how different labors can be!

SOooOooo, I guess it totally depends on your body & your labor & what the universe has decided is in store for you! I'm totally nervous this time because I'm fearful that my labor will be *fast* so I want to be able to catch it as early as possible but now I'm not sure exactly what I'll be looking for!
post #9 of 22
I've not been in labor but wanted to point out that BH can hurt. They can be painless or hurt as much as labor contractions.
post #10 of 22
For me, BH hurt like hell, sometimes. It feels like the top and front of my uterus has been grabbed and is being pulled towards the back of my pelvis, hard. My labour contractions have a different quality- it literally feels like my cervix is being evenly pulled up towards the top of my uterus, carefully but firmly (I think my body takes more care of my babies than it does of me.) This makes visualisation easier, which makes handling my emotional state easier. Third stage and after-pains, otoh, feel more like BH for me- go figure.
All I can say is, you'll know. One way or another, it will dawn on you at some point that you're about to hold your baby in your arms- and don't forget there's all these other signs like diarrhoea, nausea, general grumpiness and cervical mucus that might tip you off as well. Good luck Part of me is nostalgic that I'm never going to have my first baby again- I remember how excited I was. It really was an amazing experience.
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for all these replies! Very interesting to see all the varied answers!

I'm so glad to hear a few of you say that Braxton Hicks DO hurt, because I was thinking, if this isn't pain, then I'm pretty nervous about labor... lol. Thinking of labor pain as a much more intense version of BH seems very manageable. I really want me and the baby to be drug-free on her birthday, and for as many days of our lives as possible, for that matter!

Thanks again for all the replies!
post #12 of 22
I have VERY intense BH and use hypnosis to handle them. I haven't been in labor yet, but I think the pain is only so much as what you imagine in your mind. I am a strong believer in mind over body and have used hypnosis to get cavities filled withOUT medicine, for back pain, for achy feet, and other regular pains of pregnancy.

Also, I think something you fear will cause more pain. If you have fear about labor pains, that will make the pain worse because you'll be tense. I've been doing fear release sessions with hypnobabies and have dealth with a lot of my fears about labor and childbirth that way.

post #13 of 22
To me, BH feel like an overall tightening (sometimes uncomfortable, but never painful), whereas true labor contractions felt like the really bad intestinal cramping you get with diarrhea. Fun, fun!
post #14 of 22
Well, for me braxton hicks contractions did not hurt. There was a sensation, but nothiing too intense. With actual labor contractions it was soooooo intense. I knew one was coming on because I felt at first very strong menstral-like cramps...and then......whoosh.......the real contraction would start.
Now, I had a very short labor (5 hours) and did it at home with no drugs, plus I have a very low pain threshhold (basically I am a wimp!) so I think all of these factors led to my contractions being very intense.
I think just the fact that I dialated so quickly really made them strong.
So I would basically say that my braxton hicks were nothing like Labor contractions. I hope that doesn't scare you! It was still an awesome experience!
post #15 of 22
I had an achey belly periodically all through my last trimester last time. I agree with pp who describe contractions being like strong menstrual cramps. The thing that makes them better then menstrual cramps is you get a break in between contractions! Woo-hoo! I don't think people talk about this aspect of labor enough. This gives you a chance to rest in between early on, and later in labor regroup/get yourself together/plan something different for the next one if need be.
post #16 of 22
Just wanted to add that I agree with "Henhao". Mind over matter! The Bradley Method book is great! I really found that BREATHING through all ctx - b/h & labor contractions was very helpful! It just prepares you even more for the real thing! Also, B/h are great for getting your uterus ready for labor!
Visualization is also really usefull! I found myself lying in bed at night picturing my baby coming down the birth canal a little more with each contraction - makes them feel more productive then just sitting & waiting.
Also, I agree tht the ctx. are similar to period cramping. I also wanted to add that from the begiging I tried to think of Labor as REALLY hard work rather then a ton of pain This too helped me to feel much more productive!
It is difficult to hear other peoples experiences beacause they can sometimes instill a little fear from thier own experience. Remember that Every Woman will birth differently, and her idea of pain is very different as well!! When I started to transition with my 1st the DING DOng of a nurse decided to tell me that I Should " Get Ready, because she pushed for over 4 hours with hers" : . 45 minutes of HARD Work, & I had my girl
You'll be great!
post #17 of 22
My braxton hicks were just a tightening of my belly, and for some reason, I can't breathe as well when I get them. And yes, they are painful sometimes, in my back or lower belly.
My labor contractions were like bad menstrual cramps that came and went and got more painful as they came.
post #18 of 22
I'm not a good one to ask. With my last and with this one, I felt nothing, yet when the Dr did a check, I was dilated. Towards the end of my last I felt something, but they didn't "hurt" they were just uncomfortable and not consistent at all. The only time I had any pain was when I was in transition (and didn't realise it! lol!)
post #19 of 22
For me the best way to discribe the difference was, the BH felt like a tightening or squeezing *around* my uterus, like it was the muscles around it. and the labor cntrx's felt like totally inside me squeezing and tightening and cramping. But with my labor it was a instant labor. After about 3 labor cntrx's it felt like one big one that never let up since mine were back to back. Like as soon as i caught my breath, it was back. But no fear, my labor was only 4 hours start to finish and I never pushed. The dr said the contrx's basically squeezed her out for me, they kept yelling at me to stop pushing til they realized I was talking straight to them saying I'm not, I'm not (I had an epidural, I forgot how to breath~ felt it all, just not as painful) Good Luck, and I really think you will know the difference once you experience them both, and you'll know when its changed to the real thing. I def think fear plays a part in the intensity factor. Read up on as many birth stories as you can to help. I've heard Ina Mya's book was really awesome.
post #20 of 22
Oh yes, one more thing. Some of the women in my familiy have VERY painful menstrual cramps. My grandmother is one of these. She's told me that labor was nothing compared to her monthly cramps. I'm the same as her. I withstand a lot of intensity every month during my period and am usually in bed 2 days per month, so that's another reason I'm not too concerned with labor. I just don't see how it could be any worse. In fact, it'll have to be better, because at least I now know hypnosis. Before I knew about hypnosis, I would roll around on the floor in agony with menstrual cramps and no amount of ibuprofen helped for the first 2 days. And I'd throw up, get cold sweats, have diarrhea, etc.

If anything, I am more concerned about the rearing of this baby than the labor part. The next 18 years scare me more than 2-24 hours of labor. :LOL
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