The World of Pregnancy

Braxton Hicks Contractions: What Are They & How They Are Felt?

If you are trying to become pregnant, you most certainly have heard about Braxton Hicks contractions by now. But you can never say you know enough when it comes to your future baby.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

The notion of Braxton Hicks contractions has its origin somewhere at the end of the 19th century, when a doctor with the name of John Braxton Hicks has described the contractions from before entering into labor, which in fact they weren`t real contractions.

Imagine how it is to always think that “this is the moment,” only to find out then that actually it isn`t. Doctors and pregnant women from all over the world are grateful for almost 150 years to Dr. Hicks for clarifying this confusion. The following is meant to help you determine the difference between real contractions during labor and these so called “Braxton Hicks” contractions.

You can have periods of “false labor,” meaning irregular contractions of the uterus before the real labor starts. These are known as B.H. contractions and are perfectly normal, but sometimes they can be dangerous and appear especially at the end of the day.

What Do these Contractions Feel Like when They First Start?

These contractions aren`t usually painful like real contractions. Some women describe them as a squeezing sensation in the lower abdomen. They are similar to the menstrual cramps that some women feel. The abdomen can become firm when touched and not at regular intervals.

They are described as:

  • Irregular in intensity.
  • Rare.
  • Unpredictable.
  • Non-rhythmic.
  • They create more discomfort than pain (although for some women these contractions can be painful).
  • They don`t increase in intensity or frequency.
  • They gradually improve and then they disappear completely.

Is It Normal to Have Braxton Hicks at 20 Weeks?

Braxton Hicks contractions might do some of the initial work of the cervical dilating and thinning. They can start even from the second trimester of pregnancy, around the week 20, but they may occur earlier and also be a bit more intense if you aren`t at your first child.

These contractions are more frequent in the third trimester. The uterine muscles contract for around 30 – 60 seconds and up to 2 minutes. Braxton Hicks are also known the “preparing contractions” because they`ll prepare you for the real labor and allow you to exercise all those breathing exercises that you learned during prenatal courses.

Do Braxton Hicks Help Dilate You?

These contractions aren`t thought to have any role in the cervical dilation. However, it may have some kind of an impact on the cervical softening. As these contractions get stronger in intensity near the delivery time, they are often seen as false labor. And when they occur, they might help the effacement and dilation process.

Is It Possible to Not Have Braxton Hicks?

As with anything related to pregnancy, these contractions are rather different from one woman to another. All women who expect a baby experience them, but not all of them are aware they happen. Some pregnant women do not feel any sort of contraction until the day of delivery, which is entirely natural.

What Triggers these Contractions?

Triggers can be:

Differences between Contractions

Contraction CharacteristicsFalse ContractionsReal Contractions
How often they appear?Contractions are irregular and rare.Contractions appear at equal intervals and usually last 30 - 60 seconds. In time, they become more frequent.
Are they changing if you move?Contractions may stop when you walk, rest or change your position.Contractions continue even if you change your position.
How strong are they?Contractions are usually weak and don`t change their intensity. They can also be strong at the beginning and then decrease their intensity.Contractions increase constantly in intensity.
Where do feel the pain?Contractions are usually felt in the front of the abdomen or pelvic area.Contractions usually start in the lower back and pass through the front of the abdomen.

How to Relieve these Contractions?

  • Change the position of your body – if you are lying down, stand up or walk around a bit.
  • Do a warm bath for up to 30 minutes.
  • Drink water, if you are dehydrated.
  • Get a snack.
  • Do a massage.
  • Drink a glass of warm milk or tea.

When to Call the Doctor?

Get in touch with the doctor if you didn`t reached the week 37 of pregnancy and the contractions are increasing in frequency, are more painful or you experience any of the symptoms of premature labor.

  • Increased vaginal discharges, spots or bleeding.
  • Increased back pain or pelvic pressure.
  • More than 4 contractions per hour.
  • Abdominal pains to the ones from during menstruation or cramps.
  • Symptoms similar to flu, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Image courtesy of medicalfoxx.com
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