You may also get Braxton Hicks contractions, which are practice contractions and are weaker and more irregular than the contractions you'll feel during labor. If you put your hand on your abdomen, you may be able to feel your uterus hardening and tightening for about 25 seconds. Some women may find them uncomfortable, but they're usually not associated with pain.
You may also feel contractions during false labor. False labor contractions lead up to labor but don't cause any cervical dilation or effacements. Like Braxton Hicks, these contractions are irregular.
You can distinguish between real contractions and Braxton Hicks or false labor contractions. If you're in labor, your contractions will intensify no matter what you do - if you rest, stand up, sit down, or lay down. They will become more frequent, intense and regular. You may also have an upset stomach, cramps or diarrhea. If your water breaks or the "show" appears, then you know you're about to have a baby. The show is a thick sticky discharge that occurs when the mucus plug that seals your cervix in pregnancy becomes dislodged. It may be brown, pink or blood-tinged. When your contractions are about 5-7 minutes apart, you're in labor!
A change of hormone levels signals to your brain that your baby is ready to be born. These new hormones, including prostaglandins and oxytocin, trigger contractions.