Medical Definition of Braxton Hicks contractions

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Braxton Hicks contractions: Irregular contractions of the womb (the uterus) occurring towards the middle of pregnancy in the first pregnancy and, earlier and more intensely, in subsequent pregnancies.

These contractions tend to occur during physical activity. The uterus tightens for 30 to 60 seconds beginning at the top of the uterus; and the contraction gradually spreads downward before relaxing. Although said to be painless, Braxton Hicks contractions may be quite uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to distinguish from true labor contractions.

Not named for a Dr. Braxton and a Dr. Hicks but for John Braxton Hicks (1823-1897), a British gynecologist.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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