Braxton Hicks are irregular uterine contractions experienced during pregnancy. They are usually painless, although some women find them uncomfortable. Unlike the contractions of real labour, Braxton Hicks do not become more frequent or longer over time. In fact, it is unusual for women to have more than four in an hour. Braxton Hicks contractions tend to last around 30 seconds, although can sometimes be longer.
Braxton Hicks contractions start around week six, but will not be felt until much later in the pregnancy. As the uterus grows, the contractions will become more obvious. Some women may not feel the contractions at all, whereas others will be aware of them from the first trimester.
What is the point of Braxton Hicks contractions?
These irregular uterine contractions are believed to increase blood flow to the placenta and uterus. Some experts think the contractions are preparing the body for real labour. Towards the end of the pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions encourage the baby into the right position to engage for labour.
You shouldn’t worry if you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, they are a normal part of pregnancy. If you haven’t felt any Braxton Hicks contractions, that’s nothing to worry about either, it simply means you cannot feel them happening.
What should I do during Braxton Hicks contractions?
Braxton Hicks will make your stomach feel quite tense and hard. Towards the end of the pregnancy, you may notice an increase in the number of Braxton Hicks contractions. If you find the contractions uncomfortable you could try the following:
- Stay hydrated – these irregular uterine contractions can be caused by dehydration
- Change position – stand up, lie down or sit down and see if it helps
- Go for a walk – taking some light exercise can cause the contractions to ease off
- Have a bath – the warmth and relaxation may help with any discomfort
- Empty your bladder – a full bladder can cause a bout of Braxton Hicks
Different remedies work for different people, so try out all of the above until you find something that works for you.
Is it real labour?
Braxton Hicks contractions should not grow longer, stronger and closer together. If you have been timing your contractions for an hour, and they are growing longer and closer together, you may be in real labour. If you think this is the case, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
You should contact your healthcare provider if the contractions are accompanied by:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Lower back pain
- Vaginal Discharge
Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.