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Braxton Hicks

For those who are new to pregnancy or have been pregnant before, Braxton Hicks contractions can be some of the most frustrating contractions to experience during pregnancy. However, many pregnant women don't experience Braxton Hicks contractions at all.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks are experienced sporadically throughout pregnancy that usually begin about six weeks into the gestation period. However, many women don't notice any Braxton Hicks contractions until after mid-pregnancy if at all. The name of the Braxton Hicks contractions came from John Braxton Hicks. He was an English doctor who first described them in 1872. Braxton Hicks contractions continue to worsen as the pregnancy nears its end before delivery. As the pregnancy due date continues to draw closer, Braxton Hicks contractions can be misidentified as early labor pains. The muscles of the uterus tighten for about half of a minute to a full two minutes. Braxton Hicks are also referred to as practice contractions because they help to prepare the pregnant woman for actual labor. 

Braxton Hicks contraction symptoms:

  • Irregular with intensity
  • Infrequent
  • Unpredictable
  • Non-rythmic
  • More uncomfortable than painful
  • They often taper off and then disappear altogether

What can trigger Braxton Hicks contractions?

There is no clear answer among medical health researchers and professionals as to why Braxton Hicks contractions occur. However, some have speculated that the contractions might serve as a way to tone the uterine muscle, which promotes the flow of blood to the placenta. Contrary to some beliefs, Braxton Hicks contractions are not used to dilate the cervix, but instead may actually have a connection to the softening of the cervix. As Braxton Hicks contractions continue closer to the day of delivery, they are considered false labor. False labor pains can help in the dilation process. There are several triggers that can cause Braxton Hicks to occur like high activity levels for both the mother and the baby, having a full bladder, outside contact with the belly, sex and dehydration.

What is the difference between Braxton Hicks and true labor pains?

Because Braxton Hicks often feel similar to the labor pains brought on before delivery, they are often called false labor pains because women think they are ready to deliver. However, they are called false labor because they are really just severe Braxton Hicks contractions. When trying to determine the difference between Braxton Hicks and actual labor contractions, it is important to know that Braxton Hicks tend to be intermittently rhythmic and close together. They may even be more painful than normal contractions. However, the key to knowing the difference is to know that with Braxton Hicks, the contractions do not grow consistently longer, more intense and closer together like they do with true labor pains. However, if you are far along in your pregnancy and encounter these types of contractions, it might be a good idea to consult your doctor or midwife.

What is a good way to alleviate Braxton Hicks contractions?

While many pregnant women describe Braxton Hicks contractions as more uncomfortable than painful, they do increase in pain as the due date draws closer. Many women look for a way to alleviate those symptoms. One of the best ways to calm Braxton Hicks contractions is to take a warm bath for up to a half an hour. It is also a good idea to drink a few classes of water as Braxton Hicks can be caused by dehydration. Drinking a warm cup of milk or herbal tea is also a good solution to helping to alleviate Braxton Hicks. Many women find that through simply changing positions from laying down to standing up or vice versa can help stop Braxton Hicks contractions. In addition to these ideas, try just breathing deeply using methods taught in childbirth classes.

If the usual pain solutions are not working, and you are 37 weeks along or more, it is time to consult your doctor because you could just be entering labor a few weeks early. You should also call your health care provider if there is any abdominal pain like menstrual cramping in addition to the Braxton Hicks. If there is any vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge it is also time to call your doctor. Increased pelvic or back pain are also indications that labor could be starting. Call your health care provider as soon as possible to find out more.,

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