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Yes, “practice” contractions are normal. They’re called Braxton Hicks contractions. They can be very painful and can make you think you are in labor when you are not. You might notice them more at the end of the day.

How can you tell the difference between true labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions? Time the contractions and note whether they continue when you are resting and drinking water. If rest and hydration make the contractions go away, they are not true labor contractions.

See How to Tell When Labor Begins to learn about other differences between true and false labor. If you think you are in labor (or are not sure), call your ob-gyn. Sometimes the only way to tell if you are in true labor is by having a vaginal exam to look for changes in your cervix.

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Published: October 2020

Last reviewed: October 2020

Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read copyright and permissions information.

This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.