A lot of women, especially first-time mothers-to-be, think they are in labour when they are not. This is called false labour. ‘Practice contractions’ called Braxton Hicks contractions are common in the last weeks of pregnancy or earlier. The tightening of your uterus might startle you. Some might even be painful or take your breath away. It is no wonder that many women mistaken Braxton Hicks contractions for the real thing. So don’t feel embarrassed if you go to the hospital thinking you’re in labour, only to be sent home. The only way to tell if the contractions are true is to time them. Use a watch or clock to keep track of the time one contraction starts to the time the next contractions starts, as well as how long each contraction lasts. With true labour, contractions become regular, stronger and more frequent. Braxton Hicks contractions are not in a regular pattern and they taper off and go away. Some women find that a change in activity, such as walking or lying down, makes Braxton Hicks contractions go away. This won’t happen with true labour. Even with these guidelines, it can be hard to tell if labour is real. If you are ever unsure whether the contractions are true or Braxton Hicks, call you doctor!