What are Braxton Hicks Contractions and What do They Feel Like?

“Thank you so much for this article! I now know the difference between real labor and Braxton Hicks!”

When a woman is pregnant she can experience a variety of contractions.  Depending upon what point in time the pregnancy is the contractions could mean different things.  Mom may be experience true labor pains which would signify it is time to give birth to the baby or false labor pains which is another term for Braxton Hicks contractions.

Braxton Hicks contractions are actually named for Dr. John Braxton Hicks, an Englishman from 1872. He is the first to explain what these contractions were that occurred before the real labor would start.  The Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic uterine in nature and start nearly six weeks into the pregnancy.  Most often women do not feel them initially.

There is a possibility that you may never feel the restriction of a Braxton Hicks contraction since not everyone feels them.  If you are one that does experience these contractions you will begin to really start feeling their presence a little bit after you’ve hit midterm with your pregnancy. They will still be infrequent or irregular however.  The closer you get to your due date, the more intense the Braxton Hicks contractions become and the more frequent you will experience them.  After 37 weeks the contractions may actually be true labor.

At this point you’re probably trying to figure out how to tell the difference between the false labor of a Braxton Hicks contraction and true labor.  Sometimes it’ll be a bit tricky, but there are definitely things to watch for that will clue you in.  First let’s cover what exactly happens.  You will find that the muscles of your uterus will tighten for anywhere from 30 seconds to a full two minutes.  That’s why sometimes Braxton Hicks are called practice contractions too.  Since they last this long women on occasion will actually practice their breathing methods for when the true labor begins.

Other signs that you may be experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions include the fact that they are very irregular in intensity and happen infrequently, which of course makes them unpredictable.  Because they’re not steady, you can’t count on any rhythm which turn just makes them plain uncomfortable to have (at least they’re not painful).  By the way, when these contractions decide to taper off they really taper off – they just disappear altogether.

Are you wondering what might cause the Braxton Hicks to happen?  No one’s exactly sure actually, but there are some ideas floating about.  These thoughts include when the baby is quite active in your belly or someone touches your belly, if your bladder is full or you’re dehydrated and after you’ve had a good round of sex.

Then there’s the point you probably want them to just plain stop, don’t you?  OK. Try some of this stuff that follows to stop them from occurring. If you’ve been standing or walking or sitting down or lying down try doing the opposite (change positions).  A nice warm bath for around thirty minutes or so can ease them and if it’s dehydration causing the Braxton Hicks drink up and rehydrate.  Also, a nice cup of warm milk for some calming herbal teas may do the trick. Now, if these ideas don’t work and the contraction keep going you better go ahead and call your doctor.

So, really, Braxton Hicks contractions are just a tightening of the uterus muscles and this happens to a lot of pregnant women.  If you start having them, don’t panic as this may be normal for you even if your BFF was pregnant and never experienced them.


photo credit Billaday