Braxton Hicks contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are contractions that occur in the uterus which may cause a woman to think she is going into labor. Braxton Hicks contractions can be very uncomfortable and many times they are referred to as pre-labor or false labor by physicians.

When do Braxton Hicks contractions occur?

Braxton Hicks contractions can start around the second month of pregnancy. However, they are generally not felt in a normal pregnancy until the eighth month. Braxton Hicks contractions tend to get more frequent and intense as a woman nears her due date.

Braxton Hicks contractions come and go sporadically. When felt for an extended amount of time, some women will assume they are going into labor. However, there are ways to detect if the contractions are true labor pains. If a change of position or activity makes the contractions subside, what you were feeling were Braxton Hicks contractions. True labor contractions will not subside no matter the change in position or activity level.

How many Braxton Hicks are too many?

Most doctors agree that 4-6 Braxton Hicks contractions in an hour is higher than normal and should be followed up with a call to your doctor. Braxton Hicks can lead to real contractions and since they can be mildly painful, you might not know the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions.

True Labor Vs. False Labor

False labor is characterized by Braxton Hicks contractions which are irregular and do not get closer together. These contractions are generally weak and do not get stronger. False labor will not dilate the cervix. The discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions is generally centered in the lower groin and abdomen.

True labor will be characterized by contractions which have a pattern and which grow closer together as time passes. True contractions will generally last at least 30 seconds and they will grow in strength and intensity. True contractions will not go away with a change of position or walking. Pain from true contractions is generally felt in the back and abdomen. True labor contractions will start to dilate the cervix.

What Can I Do to Ease the Discomfort of Braxton Hicks?

Many women find that taking a warm bath does much in easing the discomfort of false labor contractions. Keeping the body hydrated with fluids can also go far in how an expectant mother will feel.

When Should I Notify My Doctor?

If contractions are accompanied by the loss of the mucous plug, or the breaking of water, it is a sign of true labor and you should contact your doctor immediately.

You should also contact your doctor if you have any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Menstrual-like cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Increased pressure in the pelvic region
  • Low back pain which is different from the usual ache