Braxton-Hicks Contractions (False Labor)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

View Stages of Pregnancy Slideshow Pictures
pregnant women picture

8 signs and symptoms of later pregnancy

Some possible symptoms of later pregnancy

Additional symptoms of later pregnancy are related to the size of the growing uterus and weight gain. As with symptoms of early pregnancy, not all women experience all these symptoms, and women do not experience them to the same degree.

  1. Weight gain
  2. Breast changes
  3. Heartburn
  4. Swollen feet and ankles
  5. Varicose veins
  6. Leakage of urine
  7. Shortness of breath
  8. Braxton-Hicks contractions: In the weeks before delivery, many women experience uterine contractions. Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton-Hicks contractions are weak and do not occur at regular intervals. Labor contractions increase in frequency and intensity.

Quick GuideStages of Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby

Stages of Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby

Braxton Hicks contractions facts

  • Braxton-Hicks contractions have been referred to as "false labor" and are contractions of the uterus that occur predominantly in the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions are typically less painful than those of true labor.
  • Unlike true labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions are unpredictable, do not occur at regular intervals, and do not become more intense over time.
  • Dehydration and physical activity may trigger Braxton-Hicks contractions.
  • Changing positions may alleviate uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks contractions.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton-Hicks contractions are contractions of the uterus that occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. They are perfectly normal and have been said to represent contractions that occur as the uterus is preparing to give birth. In some women, they occur as early as the second trimester. Sometimes, Braxton-Hicks contractions have been referred to as "false labor."

In contrast to the contractions of true labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions do not occur at regular intervals, do not get stronger over time, and do not last longer over time. They do not occur at predictable intervals, and they may disappear altogether for a time. They tend to become more frequent toward the end of pregnancy.

Common events can sometimes trigger Braxton-Hicks contractions, such as increased activity of mother or baby, touching of the maternal abdomen, dehydration, sexual intercourse, or a distended maternal bladder.

Braxton-Hicks contractions are named after an English doctor, John Braxton Hicks, who described them in 1872.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/22/2016
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