Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Back in the late 1800’s, doctors and midwives struggled to name these sporadic uterine contractions that were causing confusion to expectant mothers, fooling them into thinking they were actually in labor. A British gynecologist by the name of John Braxton Hicks finally put an end to the confusion in 1872. Naming these false labor contractions as Braxton Hicks contractions, he described them as infrequent, irregular and painless contractions of a woman’s uterus as her due date drew closer.

All women and essentially all pregnancies are different. Some women don’t experience any type of Braxton Hicks contractions, while others begin to feel these contractions at 6 weeks pregnant. Most women however, do feel these contractions in the second trimester, leading into the third trimester and continuing until actual labor begins.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

There’s lots of speculation as to why a woman feels these contractions, however most experts agree that it’s our body’s natural way of preparing for child birth. Braxton Hicks contractions are said to last 30 seconds to 2 minutes, occurring every 10-20 minutes after the first trimester of pregnancy. Unlike actual contractions, these are said to be ‘practice contractions’ since there is no pain, no consistency to them, no increase in intensity and no predictability. If the contractions are coming then going, appearing then disappearing or easing up in anyway, they are more than likely Braxton Hicks contractions.

What Causes Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Many people offer many explanations for these practice contractions, however nothing is conclusive. Some experts believe they play a part in building up the uterine muscle, as well as begin pumping blood to the placenta. So far, there has been no connection with the dilating of the cervix, however some believe there is a connection with the softening of the cervix.

There are however, causes or triggers connected with Braxton Hicks contractions, such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Full bladder
  • After intercourse
  • When you or baby are active
  • If someone touches your belly

The Difference Between Real Contractions and Braxton Hicks Contractions

There are many key components to look for when trying to decide if you’re experiencing false or real contractions. The first thing you should do is remember where you’re at in your pregnancy. If you’re still in your first or second trimester, chances are you’re dealing with Braxton Hicks contractions. If you are past 37 weeks pregnant, and begin feeling painful, calculated and frequent contractions, chances are you’re actually in labor.

Braxton Hicks contractions are known to happen days and weeks before your due date. If they become rhythmic, close together and painful, they can still fool you into thinking you’re actually in labor when you’re not. The thing to look for is that during real labor, the contractions will begin to grow consistently longer, stronger and closer together and are usually accompanied by pain.

Treatment for Braxton Hicks Contractions

Unfortunately, there is no ‘treatment’ for these contractions, however there are things you can do to help you deal with them, such as:

  • Taking a warm bath
  • Drinking more water
  • Changing positions
  • Changing activities
  • Exercising slower
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Take a walk
  • Drink warm fluids such as herbal tea
  • Relaxation
  • Get a massage
  • Eat a small meal or snack

When You Should Seek Medical Attention

Many women feel like they are bothering their health care provider when it turns out to be false labor. But it’s important to remember that your doctor or midwife is there for these reasons. Everyone knows you’re not doing this on purpose, so contact them if you deem necessary.

There are things to look for though, that can accompany your Braxton Hicks contractions and signal something could be wrong. If you’re experiencing false labor, yet have any of these symptoms happening, contact your health care provider immediately.

  • Bleeding from vagina
  • If your water breaks or you’re experiencing continuous leakage of fluids
  • Contractions that you’re unable to ‘walk through’
  • Strong contractions that are happening every 5 minutes for at least an hour
  • New symptoms you haven’t had if you’re not yet 37 weeks pregnant
  • Noticeable change in baby’s movements, especially if movements have decreased
[Page updated November 2013]