We’ve all seen that movie scene where the pregnant woman rushes to hospital thinking she’s in labour, only to be told that she’s just having false contractions. But what actually are these false contractions and is it something every pregnant person will experience?
Scroll down for what you need to know about false contractions aka Braxton Hicks…
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What are Braxton Hicks?
Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic contractions of the uterus that may occur during pregnancy. They are also referred to as practice contractions or false labour. They are named after an English doctor, John Braxton Hicks, (of course it’s a man 🙄) who first described them in 1872.
The false contractions serve as a way for the body to prepare for labour by toning the uterine muscles and promoting blood flow to the placenta. Some women may have more noticeable or frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, while others may not experience them at all.
What causes Braxton Hicks?
The exact cause of Braxton Hicks contractions is not fully known, however there are several factors that may contribute to why they happen:
- Uterine muscle stretching: As the uterus grows and expands to accommodate the growing baby, the muscles in the uterine wall stretch. This stretching can lead to sporadic contractions.
- Increased sensitivity of the uterus: During pregnancy, hormonal changes can make the uterus more sensitive to stimuli. Movements of the baby, a full bladder, or physical activity can trigger the uterine muscles to contract.
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can increase the likelihood of experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Strenuous physical activity: Engaging in physical activities, such as exercise or lifting heavy objects, can stimulate Braxton Hicks contractions, particularly if you are overexerting yourself.
- Full bladder: A full bladder can irritate the uterus and contribute to the onset of Braxton Hicks contractions. Emptying your bladder regularly may help alleviate or prevent their occurrence.
What does Braxton Hicks feel like?
Braxton Hicks are usually felt as a tightening of your uterus. A lot of women report that their baby bump becomes very hard and solid when it happens.
The false contractions are generally painless and irregular, meaning they don’t follow a consistent pattern. They often vary in intensity, duration, and frequency. While Braxton Hicks may be uncomfortable or slightly uncomfortable, they are typically not considered true labour contractions.
True labour contractions become more frequent, regular, and intense over time and are accompanied by other signs of labour, such as the dilation and effacement of the cervix.
When do Braxton Hicks start?
Braxton Hicks can start as early as the second trimester but are more commonly experienced in the third trimester of pregnancy.
It’s more common to experience Braxton Hicks earlier and more frequently if you have had previous pregnancies. This is because the uterine muscles have already been stretched and experienced contractions. Many first-time, pregnant women report that they didn’t experience Braxton Hicks until much closer to their due date, if at all.
If you do experience any contractions and you’re unsure whether they are Braxton Hicks or true labour contractions, it’s always best to contact your midwife or GP. They can provide guidance and help determine the nature of the contractions and whether it’s time to go to the hospital or birthing centre.
5 things to do when you have Braxton Hicks
When you feel a false contraction, there are several things you can do to help alleviate any discomfort or manage the sensations:
- Change positions: Sometimes, simply changing your position can relieve the intensity of the contractions. Try lying down on your left side or taking a walk to see if it makes a difference. Engaging in light physical activity or doing gentle stretches can also help ease the contractions and promote blood circulation.
- Relax and breathe: Focus on deep, slow breathing during the contractions. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or practicing mindfulness can help you stay calm and manage any discomfort.
- Hydrate: Dehydration can contribute to the frequency and intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Empty your bladder: A full bladder can irritate the uterus and potentially trigger contractions. Emptying your bladder may help relieve the discomfort.
- Take a warm bath or shower: Immersing yourself in warm water can help relax your muscles and alleviate any discomfort from Braxton Hicks contractions.
Can Braxton Hicks hurt the baby?
No, Braxton Hicks contractions are generally considered harmless and do not pose any direct harm to the baby. They are a normal part of pregnancy and are not associated with any adverse effects on the baby’s health or development.
Remember, Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal part of pregnancy, but if you have concerns about the contractions or experience any other unusual symptoms, it’s always best to consult with your midwife for specific advice and guidance. If you’re experiencing regular, frequent, or increasingly intense contractions, contact your midwife straightaway, as these could be signs of preterm labour or other complications.
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.