Understanding and Identifying Braxton Hicks Contractions
This post was first published on wfmchealth.org.
You’ve been preparing for the day you’ll bring your baby home since you learned you were pregnant, but did you know that your body is also preparing for the big moment? Delivering a baby is a big job, and your body may decide to get in some practice before the blessed event. That’s where Braxton Hicks contractions come into play.
What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are your body’s way of practicing for childbirth. During these contractions, your uterus will tighten for up to two minutes at a time. These contractions mimic the ones you’ll have during labor, but they aren’t as strong.
Although they’re not strong enough to disturb your baby, Braxton Hicks contractions are sometimes frightening. They begin in some women as early as 20 weeks and can cause concerns that labor has started early. Fortunately, there are ways you can distinguish these contractions from others.
Unlike labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions come irregularly and sporadically. They don’t come rhythmically or get closer together over time. They also won’t get stronger over time. It’s also of note that your water won’t break during Braxton Hicks contractions, and you won’t lose your mucous plug.
Even though Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t as strong as the ones you’ll feel during labor, they can be uncomfortable and distracting. Fortunately, these practice contractions typically ease with movement, so try changing positions or taking a short walk. Braxton Hicks contractions tend to occur more frequently when you’re dehydrated, so drink plenty of water.
Relaxing can also stop Braxton Hicks contractions, so try drinking a glass of warm herbal tea. You can also take a hot bath, but don’t stay in the tub for more than 30 minutes at a time.
Although your instinctual reaction to Braxton Hicks contractions may be to ease any discomfort you feel, consider using them to your advantage instead. You can prepare for labor by practicing along with your body, using the breathing and visualization techniques you’re learning in childbirth classes. The more you practice with these techniques, the better you’ll perform them when true labor begins.
Braxton Hicks contractions generally cause only mild discomfort and distraction. If yours are bothersome or if you think you may be in true labor, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for help. It’s never wrong to ask questions that will keep you and your baby healthy.