- What Are Braxton-Hicks?
- What Do They Feel Like?
- True Labor or Braxton-Hicks?
- How to Cope
- When to Seek Help
What are Braxton-Hicks contractions?
Braxton-Hicks contractions are usually painless contractions that begin in the first trimester (usually around the 6th week) of pregnancy. Women with a history of childbirth may experience these contractions in the second trimester. Braxton-Hicks contractions are also sometimes called false labor, pre-labor or practice contractions. Real contractions are referred to as the ones that signal true labor.
What do Braxton-Hicks contractions feel like?
Most women usually feel Braxton-Hicks contractions as painless contractions in the abdomen that occur at irregular intervals. Others experience them as a tightened belly when they casually happen to move their hands over their belly. It is okay and completely normal to not experience Braxton-Hicks contractions at all.
Researchers do not know the exact reason behind Braxton-Hicks contractions. However, certain factors such as dehydration; a full bladder; and illnesses such as flu, diarrhea and vomiting are known to trigger them.
Some experts believe that Braxton-Hicks contractions are the body’s way to let the uterus adjust to contractions that occur during labor. This might be like a practice or preparation for the body for the final day—the day of delivering a new life.
How to know if it is true labor or Braxton-Hicks contractions
It is much easier for experienced mothers to identify whether it is true labor or Braxton-Hicks contractions. The new moms to be must be really confused between the two and may get scared because of the lack of knowledge.
Here is a table that can help women figure out if it is a sign of true labor or a false sign (Braxton-Hicks contraction):
|Braxton-Hicks contractions||Real contractions of true labor|
|Contractions occur at an irregular pace.||Contractions occur at regular intervals of 15 to 20 minutes.|
|Contractions don't become closer together over time.||The interval between two contractions starts decreasing over time.|
|Contractions are usually felt only in the front of the belly.||Contractions can be felt all over the belly.|
|Contractions do not become longer or stronger.||Contractions get more intense or stronger. They increasingly become longer.|
|There is usually mild discomfort. Some may feel mild to moderate pain.||The pain is severe enough to cause difficulty in activities such as walking.|
Most often, measures such as resting, switching positions (for example, standing instead of sitting) and drinking a lot of water helps relieve the contractions.
|Movements or changes in positions or activities do not help relieve the contractions.|
How to cope with Braxton-Hicks contractions
If women are having discomfort or mild to moderate pain with Braxton-Hicks contractions, they should try the measures below.
When to seek medical help
Braxton-Hicks contractions do not generally require a visit to the doctor. However, if they are extremely painful and are coming at regular intervals, it signals some serious issues such as preterm labor or some other problem. For any additional concerns, women should not hesitate to speak to their doctor or midwife to relieve their apprehensions and clarify their doubts.
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Childbirth Delivery Methods and TypesThere are various childbirth delivery methods and types such as the Lamaze method, the Bradley method, water birth, and assisted births. Options for where a woman can deliver her baby include home birth, a birthing center, and a hospital. The method and type of labor and delivery options should be discussed with a woman's doctor.
Braxton Hicks Contractions (False Labor)Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as false labor pains. Though these irregular uterine contractions may occur in the second trimester, they're more likely to occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. Unlike true labor pains, false labor pains are often irregular, may stop when you walk, rest, or change positions, and the contractions do not get closer together or stronger.
Braxton Hicks vs. True Labor: How to Tell the DifferenceSome pregnant women may mistake Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor) for real labor contractions, especially in the first pregnancy. Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain. Braxton Hicks contractions do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return. Braxton Hicks contractions occur in third trimester of pregnancy, however, sometimes can occur in the second trimester. True labor contractions begin around your due date (unless your baby is preterm, in which you will be in preterm labor). So how can you tell the difference? Here are a few similarities and differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and True or real labor contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions tend to become more frequent toward the end of pregnancy, and are not as painful as real labor contractions; do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return.
Frequently one of the early symptoms and signs of true labor is when the contractions begin to occur less than 10 minutes apart.
Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain; may feel similar to menstrual cramps; and sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions can be triggered by dehydration, sexual intercourse, increased activity of the mother or baby, touching of the pregnant woman's abdomen, or a distended bladder.
Natural and home remedies to soothe and provide comfort for Braxton Hicks contractions include relaxation exercises like deep breathing or mental relaxation; change positions or take a walk if you have been active and rest; drink a glass of herbal tea or water; eat; or soak in a warm bath for 30 minutes (or less).
Preterm labor signs and symptomsWhen you have reached 37 weeks, and the contractions are more painful and are increasing in frequency you will have abdominal pain or menstrual-like cramping, an increase in pelvic pressure or back pain, and the contractions are more than four contractions an hour.
Labor Symptoms (Early Signs)Every woman's experience with labor and delivery is unique for each woman, and thus "Normal" labor varies from woman to woman. Some of the common signs and symptoms of normal labor include the "baby dropping," increase urination, back pain, contractions, and diarrhea.
How Do Contractions Feel When They First Start?Labor contractions, popularly known as contractions, refer to the tightening of a pregnant woman’s uterus (womb). Contractions feel like a gradual tightening of the abdominal muscles that increases in intensity and then relaxes.
How Do They Induce Labor?Labor is a process that generally happens naturally in most women. However, it is estimated that 25% of women will need induction of their labor. Labor induction (also known as inducing labor) is stimulating the uterus by external means for faster childbirth through the vagina. This procedure has been increasingly done since the year 1996.
Labor and DeliveryEarly and later symptoms and signs of labor and delivery are unique to each woman. Early signs of labor are "lightning" and passing the mucus plug. Later symptoms and signs that labor that labor is are the woman's water breaking, and when contractions begin. There are three stages of labor, stage 1 is the longest and occurs when the cervix begins to thin and dilate. During stage 2 of labor the baby passes through the birth canal and remains there until delivery, and stage 3, is when the baby is delivered.
How Long Does It Take to Go Into Labor After Being Induced?In most healthy pregnancies, labor usually starts spontaneously between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. The onset of labor is characterized by softening and opening of the cervix, following which the uterus starts contracting and the water breaks.
Stages of PregnancySee pictures on the various stages of pregnancy. See and learn what changes a woman's body goes through and view fetal images of how her baby grows during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
What Is the Process of Normal Delivery?Normal delivery refers to childbirth through the vagina without any medical intervention. It is also known as a vaginal birth. Every delivery is unique and may differ from mothers to mothers. There are different stages of normal delivery or vaginal birth.