Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions are “practice contractions” that tone the uterus in preparation for real labor. They don’t cause any changes to the cervix however, so they won’t cause premature labor and are totally normal and safe. In fact it’s actually a good thing if you’re having them, as it means your uterus is strong and practicing hard. Some women never notice Braxton Hicks contractions, particularly in their first pregnancy, so don’t be worried if you don’t feel them. Braxton Hicks occur randomly, but may also be caused by strenuous exercise, sex, orgasm, and dehydration.
Braxton Hicks contractions start out as mild tightening in the front of the uterus. They are felt higher in the stomach in contrast to something like menstrual cramps. Some women notice a contorted belly shape during a Braxton Hicks contraction. Others have noticed a tightening, and some difficulty breathing during a Braxton Hicks contraction.
These mild uterine contractions are irregular and last for about 30 seconds at a time. Most women won’t experience more than 1-2 per hour a few times each day. Later in pregnancy, the frequency may increase. If you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, you may notice: a tightening or hardening of the uterus light, dull cramping higher in your abdomen quick contractions, not longer than 30 seconds at a time, that don’t escalate any pain decreases in intensity with rest, fluids, or time.
In many cases, Braxton Hicks contractions are simply just another symptom of pregnancy, but there are some things that can increase the likelihood of experiencing Braxton Hicks: Dehydration Stress Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Strenuous Exercise. There is usually no low or deep pelvic aching or pain like in true labor and with menstrual cramps. If there is low pain associated with Braxton Hicks, it is not likely to wrap around the body like true labor contractions do. Braxton hicks contractions will slow down and disappear, especially with drinking water, changing position, and movement. True labor contractions won’t go away, will intensify in strength, and will become longer and closer together. Longer, stronger, and closer together usually suggests actual labor contractions.
|Braxton Hicks vs. Real Contractions|
|Occur in the upper belly||Occur lower and may wrap around the body|
|Don’t get longer||Get longer|
|Don’t get stronger||Get stronger|
|Don’t get closer together||Get closer together|
|Subside with activity||Do not subside with activity|
|Does not affect the cervix||Affects the cervix|
As noted, Braxton Hicks contractions are your body’s natural way of practicing for the big day. Even women who experience frequent Braxton Hicks contractions do not need to worry—these contractions are not harmful to mama or baby. If you’re uncomfortable, see below for some ideas to relieve some of the discomfort. And always call your doctor if you are concerned or experience what you think are real contractions.
What to Do if You’re Having Braxton Hicks Contractions? Practice! Just as your body is practicing for labor, you can use this time to practice tuning into your body, breathing, relaxing, and following the contraction from start to finish.