Braxton Hicks Contractions during Pregnancy

Posted by Liza Elliott-Ramirez December - 12 - 2014
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What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks Contractions get their name from John Braxton Hicks, an English doctor who first described them in 1872.Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic uterine contractions that start about 6 weeks into your pregnancy. However, you won’t be able to feel them that early. Some women don’t even notice them at all. If you do, you probably won’t start to notice them until sometime after mid-pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses, Braxton Hicks contractions tend to come more often, but until you get to your last few weeks, they’ll probably remain infrequent, irregular, and pretty much painless. However, Braxton Hicks contractions can be difficult to distinguish from early signs of preterm labor.

Braxton Hicks Contractions during Pregnancy

By the time you’re within a couple of weeks of your due date, your cervix has likely begun to “ripen” or gradually soften up in preparation for labor. Your contractions may get more intense and frequent. This can cause some discomfort. Unlike the earlier painless and sporadic Braxton Hicks contractions, which caused no obvious cervical changes, these contractions may help your cervix thin out, or efface and maybe even open up, or dilate. This period is can be referred to as pre-labor.

 How can I tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and labor contractions?

In the days or weeks before labor, Braxton Hicks contractions may become rhythmic, pretty close together, and even painful. This could possibly trick you into thinking you’re in labor. But unlike true labor, during this “false labor”, the contractions don’t grow consistently longer, stronger, or closer together.

 How do I deal with Braxton Hicks contractions?

If you’re within a few weeks of your due date, and your Braxton Hicks contractions are causing you pain, change your activity or body position. Sometimes walking can provide some relief. At other times, resting eases contractions.

Take a warm bath to help your body relax. Drink a couple of glasses of water, since these contractions can sometimes be caused by dehydration. Engage in relaxation exercises or slow, deep breathing. This won’t stop the Braxton Hicks contractions, but it may help you manage the discomfort.

 When should I be concerned?

Don’t try to make the diagnosis yourself. Always play it safe and contact your doctor if you have any concerns at all. If you haven’t hit 37 weeks yet and you’re having more than four contractions in an hour, or have any other signs of preterm labor, see your doctor right away. Call your doctor immediately if you haven’t reached 37 weeks and your contractions are becoming more frequent, rhythmic, or painful, or if you have any of these potential signs of early labor:

-Abdominal pain, menstrual-like cramping, or more than four contractions in one hour

-Any vaginal bleeding or spotting

-An increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge, or if it becomes watery, mucus-y, or bloody.

-More pressure in the pelvic area.

Lower back pain, especially if it’s dull or rhythmic or you haven’t previously had back pain.

 Unless you have been instructed otherwise, if you’re past 37 weeks, there’s no need to call your doctor just for contractions until they last about 60 seconds each and are five minutes apart and continue like this for an hour. Also be sure to call if you’re bleeding or leaking amniotic fluid.

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