Braxton Hicks contractions are sometimes called ‘false’ or ‘practice’ contractions. You may be having Braxton Hicks contractions, if you feel irregular, infrequent tightening or cramping in your abdomen during your pregnancy. This is normal and not a sign that you’re ready to give birth.
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are a tightening in your abdomen that comes and goes. They tone the muscles in your uterus and may also help prepare the opening of the womb for birth.
Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t a sign of labor.
If you are worried and not sure what you are experiencing is false or actual labor, contact you doctor. They will be able to tell by doing a cardiotocograph and a vaginal examination. If your cervix is not dilating, it is not labor.
How do I know if what I am experiencing are Braxton Hicks?
Braxton Hicks contractions feel like muscles tightening across your belly, and if you put your hands on your belly when the contractions happen, you can probably feel your womb becoming hard then soft irregularly.
The contractions come irregularly and usually last for about 30 seconds. While they can be uncomfortable, they usually aren’t painful.
If the pain or discomfort of your contractions eases off, they’re probably Braxton Hicks contractions.
When do I start feeling Braxton Hicks?
Braxton Hicks contractions occur from early in your pregnancy by the first trimester which is about 16 weeks, but you may not feel them until the second trimester or later in pregnancy, you may feel Braxton Hicks contractions more often, as much as every 10 to 20 minutes. This could be a sign that your body is getting ready for labor.
What is the difference between Braxton Hicks from labor pain?
There are some differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor contractions that will help your doctor or midwife decide if you are in labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions:
- Do not result in your cervix thinning and opening
- Usually last for about 30 seconds
- Usually not painful, but may cause some discomfort
- Irregular, once or twice an hour, and may come and go at a few times a day until late in the pregnancy
- Usually stop if you change position or activity or go for a walk
- Usually disappear if you take a shower or have a warm bath
True labor contractions:
- Result in your cervix thinning and opening
- Usually, last 30 to 70 seconds then longer as time goes by
- Become very regular with time (every 3-5 minutes)
- Get more frequent
- Last longer as time goes by
- Get stronger over time or come more often when you walk
What can I do to relieve Braxton Hicks discomfort?
It may help to practice your breathing exercises during your Braxton Hicks contractions
Although Braxton Hicks contractions are normal, but they may cause some discomfort that can go, by changing position, lying down, warm bath, massage, or by going for a walk.
When do I contact my doctor or midwife?
If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant, and you are experiencing pain, pressure or discomfort in your pelvis, abdomen, or lower back, please contact your doctor immediately. If the contractions become regular, frequent and stronger. This can be a sign of premature labor.
At any time of your pregnancy, if you feel fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina, contact your doctor and visit the Emergency Room for checkup.
If you are above 37 weeks, you may choose to wait until a bit later in your labor, providing that your baby’s movements haven’t reduced and your water did not break. If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to call us for advice at the labor and delivery unit, a midwife will assist and will be ready to answer your questions.
At any stage of your pregnancy, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you experience the following:
- Persistent pain in your abdomen
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Water leaking
- Your baby’s movement have reduced or stopped
- You have severe headache, epigastric pain, or you feel very unwell.