Facts you should know about Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions feel like true labor only typically less painful.
- 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.
Braxton Hicks contractions are named after an English doctor, John Braxton Hicks, who first described them in 1872.
What causes Braxton Hicks contractions?
Common events can sometimes trigger Braxton Hicks contractions, for example:
- Increased activity of mother or baby
- Touching of the maternal abdomen
- Sexual intercourse
- Distended maternal bladder
6 Early Signs of Labor
Symptoms that true labor is approaching
While there are characteristic changes in the body with impending labor, every woman's experience is unique and different. "Normal" can vary from woman to woman. The signs and symptoms of true labor can begin three weeks prior to the anticipated due date up until two weeks afterward, and there is no precise way to predict exactly when a woman will go into labor. When signs and symptoms of labor do occur, they may include:
- The mucus plug passes
- The baby drops
- You feel the need to urinate more frequently
- Back pain
- Feeling the urge to have a bowel movement
What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?
Braxton Hicks contractions are not typically as painful as those of true labor contractions. Some women describe them as a tightening sensation across the lower abdomen. They may feel similar to menstrual cramps in some women. The abdomen may become firm to the touch. They do not occur at regular intervals.
Which home remedies help relieve Braxton Hicks contraction discomfort and pain?
If Braxton Hicks contractions are uncomfortable, you can take these measures:
- Change positions, take a walk, or rest if you have been active.
- Drink a glass of water, or a cup of herbal tea.
- Perform relaxation exercises, deep breathing, or mental relaxation.
- Eat something.
- Bathe in a warm bath for up to 30 minutes.
When should I call my doctor about Braxton Hicks contractions?
Call your doctor or midwife if you haven't reached 37 weeks and the contractions are increasing in frequency, are more painful, or you have any of the signs of preterm labor:
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Medically Reviewed on 5/4/2021
Milton, Sarah Hagood. "Normal Labor and Delivery." Medscape. Jan. 24, 2019. <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/260036-overview>.