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Understanding Braxton Hicks Contractions

Are you in labor or are you merely experiencing practice contractions or Braxton Hicks contractions? Find out how to tell the difference -- and what to expect.
Pregnant woman looking out window Understading the Cause

Whether it's called "false labor," "practice contractions," or Braxton Hicks contractions (named for the 19th-century English doctor John Braxton Hicks, who first "discovered" them), you'll almost certainly experience this periodic tightening or hardening of your belly. These contractions, usually painless but occasionally quite uncomfortable, are your uterus's method of practicing for true labor. Braxton Hicks contractions may do some of the preliminary work of thinning and dilating your cervix. They usually first appear in the second trimester, around 20 weeks, though they may come earlier (and be more intense) if you have had a previous pregnancy.