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Understanding Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false contractions, are a tightening of the abdomen that happens during pregnancy. These contradictions are normal, and they don’t mean you’re going into labor. Braxton Hicks contractions help prepare the body to give birth. The uterus contracts and relaxes, strengthening its muscles.

Here are some common questions that women having concerning Braxton Hicks contractions. 

What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

Braxton Hicks contractions feel like muscles tightening or hardening across the stomach. Some women compare the feeling to menstrual cramping. While Braxton Hicks contractions may be uncomfortable, they aren’t painful.

These contractions are irregular, typically lasting for about thirty seconds and decreasing in frequency. They also may start out strong, but the intensity will subside over time.

When Do You Experience Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions can occur from the beginning of the pregnancy, but most women don’t notice them until the second or third trimester. 

For first pregnancies, Braxton Hicks contractions are typically felt around the 20-week mark. With later pregnancies, you may experience them sooner and more frequently. While all women experience these contractions, not all women notice them. Not experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions is normal as well. 

How are Braxton Hicks Contractions Different From Labor Contractions?

Sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions are mistaken for labor pain. Braxton Hicks contractions and the contractions experienced during labor serve different purposes. Contractions experienced during labor dilate the cervix, while Braxton Hicks contractions serve to strengthen the uterine muscles in preparation for birth. 

If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or going into labor, a doctor can check to see whether your cervix is dilated. However, there are also several other distinctions between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor pains.

Braxton Hicks contractions:

  • Are irregular.
  • Decrease in frequency and intensity over time.
  • Feel like tightening or mild cramping in the abdomen.
  • Are usually felt in the front of the abdomen.

Labor contractions:

  • Are regular.
  • Increase in frequency and intensity over time.
  • Are usually very painful.
  • Can be felt in the back and front of the abdomen.

If you’re still unsure whether you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, contact your doctor.

What Causes Braxton Hicks Contractions?

It’s not completely clear why some women experience Braxton Hicks contractions and others don’t. However, these activities may trigger false contractions:

  • Intense physical activity
  • Sex
  • Dehydration
  • Needing to urinate

How Can I Alleviate Discomfort?

Braxton Hicks contractions go away on their own. They may be uncomfortable, but they typically aren’t painful. These things may help alleviate some discomfort:

  • If you’ve been active, take a rest
  • Moving positions
  • Hydrating
  • Emptying your bladder
  • Taking a warm bath

Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal part of pregnancy, and they don’t mean that you are going into labor. These contractions can look different between pregnancies and people, so if you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing real labor or false contractions, contact your doctor.