Braxton hicks contractions may not signify the onset of labor but there is nothing “false” about them.

Often referred to as false labor, braxton hicks contractions are your body’s way of preparing for the big day. Unfortunately, they offer no indication of when labor will begin.

Some people begin experiencing them randomly during the second trimester, some feel them during the third trimester and some never experience them at all. They are not a prerequisite for labor so don’t worry if you’re amongst those who haven’t experienced them at all.

But what do braxton hicks contractions feel like?

The best way to describe them is to relate them to menstrual cramps. They feel like a tightening in the lower part of the abdomen. Some people describe them as an achy tight feeling.

Braxton hicks contractions are different from actual labor contractions as they are more annoying than uncomfortable and not usually described as painful.

These contractions don’t intensify. They don’t get longer, stronger or closer together and are quite inconsistent in timing.

How long do braxton hicks contractions last?

You can expect these contractions to only last about 15 – 30 seconds vs. the contractions you’ll experience during actual that will last between 30 – 90 seconds in length.

How can you stop braxton hicks contractions once they begin?

These contractions seem to respond to change. If you are sitting, stand. If you are resting, walk. You can also take a bath, get a massage, change positions or eat a meal.

The most important thing you should know is that these contractions during pregnancy are perfectly normal. There is no cause for alarm.

However, if you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and you are experiencing contractions that do increase in intensity; that become longer stronger and closer together, you should contact your doctor or midwife.