What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

You may or may not have heard the phrase Braxton Hicks prior to your first pregnancy. These are sporadic uterine contractions that begin as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and continue until you go into labor. They are named after John Braxton Hicks, an English doctor who first described them in medical literature in 1872. Early on you likely will not feel them. You may begin noticing them in mid-pregnancy, although not all women do. Generally, as the pregnancy progresses so does the frequency and intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions. However, unlike real labor, with this false labor the contractions do not get stronger, more rhythmic or closer together.

Nevertheless, sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions can be hard to distinguish from preterm labor. If you haven’t reached 37 weeks yet, and you are having more than four contractions an hour, or if you have any additional signs of preterm labor such as vaginal bleeding; increased discharge; increased pressure in the pelvic area; or low back pain, especially if it is dull and rhythmic, you should call your doctor.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

As you get closer to your due date, your Braxton Hicks contractions may make you feel uncomfortable. There are some measures you can take to help:

  • Change your activity or position. Sometimes walking can be helpful
  • A warm bath can help your body relax
  • Drink more water, as these contractions can be brought on by dehydration
  • Do some slow breathing or relaxation exercises. It won’t necessarily stop the contractions, but it can help you cope with the discomfort. It also gives you a chance to practice your pain-management techniques in anticipation of your labor and delivery

When you are in the last few weeks of your pregnancy, the period known as pre-labor, your Braxton Hicks contractions may help your body get ready.

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