Do you remember the fire drills in school? The specially designed evacuation program trains you to get to safety in an emergency. Braxton Hicks contractions work a lot for pregnant mums like those fire drills. They are a natural drill that prepares you for labour.
But unlike the fire drill, you don’t need to assume there’s a fire. Braxton Hicks contractions feel all too real with the tightening and hardening of the uterus that will last between 30 seconds and two minutes. Rest assured, expecting mums, you will undergo Braxton Hicks contractions at some point during the pregnancy and the more you know about it, the better prepared you will be to handle them.
Do note that these contractions are completely regular, and there’s nothing to be concerned about concerning your health or the baby. Here’s all you need to know about false labour pains or Braxton Hicks contractions.
What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Image Source: Pexels
Braxton Hicks contractions are also called “false labour.” They’re irregular, painless contractions in the later stages of pregnancy. They’re typically nothing to worry about and don’t affect your baby.
The contractions are named after John Braxton Hicks, the English physician who first described them back in 1872. He investigated the later stages of pregnancy and noted that women felt contractions without being near birth. The contractions were usually painless but created confusion in women about going into actual labour.
When you’re pregnant, your uterus stretches to accommodate your growing baby. As it stretches, it contracts to help move the baby into the birth canal. Braxton Hicks contractions occur when these uterine contractions occur more frequently or more intensely than normal.
The frequency and intensity of Braxton Hicks’s contractions vary greatly from person to person. Still, most women experience mild cramps in their lower abdomen that come and go throughout the day. They can be strong enough for you to notice them—and even feel like they’re getting worse—but they shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort.
If you’re concerned about your contractions, talk with your doctor or midwife about what’s normal for you during pregnancy to recognise if something changes over time or becomes more severe.
What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?
Braxton Hicks contractions are cramping, but they shouldn’t hurt too much. They should be uncomfortable but not painful. You shouldn’t be able to feel them if you’re not pregnant, so if you can feel them, it’s probably Braxton Hicks. If you’ve been getting Braxton Hicks for more than a few days, it may mean your baby’s coming soon!
When Can You Feel Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are usually felt in the abdomen. They can be sharp, mild, or painless, but they may not always be noticeable.
It’s important to know when you’re having it because it can signify that you’re going into labour. This can help you plan for when your baby will arrive and also give you an idea of how long the labour will take.
Braxton Hicks contractions are most likely to happen when you’re sitting or lying down. You may notice them when you’re at home watching TV or reading a book, but they can also happen when you’re doing something active like walking around the block or doing yard work.
Image Source: iStock
What Happens In Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Some of the common things that women experience during Braxton Hicks contractions include:
- Usually painless, but some expecting mums do compare it to mild menstrual cramps
- You may feel the baby bump tighten up and then go back to normal
- They are sporadic and don’t occur in a pattern
- They last for about 30 seconds to two minutes
- Some women can have them several times a day
- They usually occur during the second trimester of the pregnancy
- Women who’ve been pregnant before, though, may experience them earlier
- The contractions taper off or disappear
What Triggers Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Some of the most common triggers of Braxton hicks contractions include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fetus movement
- When you lift something heavy
- After exercise or intercourse
- At the end of the day, the mind and body are calm once the work is complete.
A common characteristic among all the triggers is the potential for stress on the fetus and the need to increase blood flow to the placenta to provide fetal oxygenation.
The contractions cause the blood to flow to the chorionic plate on the fetal side of the placenta.
Is It Normal to Have Braxton Hicks All Day?
These contractions are not the same as the real thing. They’re just practice contractions. But if they’re happening all day, that can signify preterm labour.
Call your doctor immediately if you’ve had Braxton Hicks contractions for two or more hours. They could be in early labour and need to be checked out.
But if you’ve had them for only a few minutes throughout the day, that’s pretty normal. You might feel like they’re getting stronger and closer together, but if they don’t last five to 10 minutes at a time and aren’t getting closer together, then that’s probably just Braxton Hicks.
How To Ease Discomfort During Braxton Hicks Contractions?
These contractions can make you feel extremely uncomfortable. If you find yourself in such a position, try any of the following methods to ease your discomfort:
- Drink a tall glass of water since dehydration can be one of the reasons for contractions
- Lay down and relax or take a walk around the house
- Practice deep breathing exercises
- Don’t hold your pee, and make sure to relieve yourself regularly
Braxton Hicks | Image from Pexels
How Do I Know if It’s Braxton Hicks or Baby Moving?
Braxton Hicks contractions are normal and common. They are irregular, don’t cause pain, and happen every 10 minutes. They’re just your body practising when your baby’s ready to come out!
But sometimes, you might feel like your baby is kicking, moving, or even turning over—even though they’re not doing any of those things. This can make it hard to tell if it’s just Braxton Hicks or your baby moving around.
Here are some signs that it’s probably just Braxton Hicks:
- They’re not regular
- They don’t hurt
- They don’t come every five minutes
- You can still feel them after about 20 minutes have passed
Here are some signs that it could be a baby moving around:
- They’re regular (like every five minutes)
- They hurt (not always, but sometimes)
- They last longer than 20 minutes
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Difference Between Braxton Hicks & Actual Labour Contractions?
Unlike Braxton Hicks, true labour will continue after the first couple of minutes, and the pain will only increase with time as you enter active labour.
If your contractions occur regularly, you could be in labour and should call your doctor immediately. If any of the following is happening to you, you may have to head to a hospital immediately:
- Contractions keep coming every 10 minutes or more than six times per hour
- They do not disappear even after you’ve taken a walk or had a large glass of water
- Your water broke, or you have unusual vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding
- Contractions are closer to your due date
- You are unable to walk through the contractions
- Noticeable change in the fetal movement
Some experts suggest that Braxton Hicks happens when the uterus rehearses for delivery. This helps at the time of labour by softening the cervix. Contrary to belief, these contractions do not play in role in dilating the cervix.
If you are unsure whether the contractions are actual labour or Braxton Hicks, contact your gynaecologist. Based on the symptoms, the doctor will either ask you to go to the hospital or relax at home and allow it to pass.
Updates by Pheona Ilagan
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