Braxton Hicks Contractions: Symptoms and Intervals

Have you added this term to your list of pregnancy-related vocabulary – Braxton Hicks contractions? Why Braxton Hicks anyway? Braxton Hicks contractions are false labor contractions and termed after John Braxton Hicks who was the first physician to explain the rhythmic contractions of the uterus that occur throughout pregnancy. What are they, when do they start, what are the symptoms, the pain and the intervals between them like?

Why are there false labor contractions?

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Braxton Hicks contractions are the irregular contractions you experience. The intervals between them and the degree of the pain all differ, but their function remains the same: They tell you that you will soon be experiencing true labor contractions. Called the false labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as “practice contractions”.

Braxton Hicks contractions help your uterus strengthen itself for the real labor. Specifically, they help the lower part of your uterus and the cervix to dilate and soften. They indicate that labor is approaching and that you should also mentally prepare yourself.

When do Braxton Hicks contractions start and will I deliver soon?

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Braxton Hicks contractions usually start in the last month of pregnancy – from about Week 36 to Week 40. However, as this can differ from individual to individual, some moms would have experienced Braxton Hicks even before entering the last month. Some moms who are already close to their EDD might go into labor shortly after experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, but this doesn’t apply to everyone.

Symptoms associated with Braxton Hicks contractions

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The Braxton Hicks contractions can’t possibly compare to true labor contractions in terms of the degree of pain, but how painful is it? How about the symptoms? The likely symptoms are a painful belly and abdominal tightness. Though this doesn’t happen to everyone, you might have lower back pain as well. Some moms have described the pain to be similar to the pain felt when their babies kick against the lower part of their bellies, pains like menstrual cramps or that of diarrhea.

One very easy way to tell Braxton Hicks contractions apart from true labor contractions is this: Braxton Hicks contractions are not accompanied by waters breaking. When your waters break, you will most likely go into labor after – it is one of the main signs indicating that labor has started.

Even when the contractions you feel aren’t strong and appear to be Braxton Hicks contractions, you need to monitor your condition carefully. This is because what you’re experiencing could very well be uterine inertia. As its name suggest, uterine inertia refers to the ineffectiveness of the uterus to contract with enough force even during labor, and this could result in a difficult labor.

How long is the interval between Braxton Hicks contractions ?

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The intervals between Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t regular, nor is the pain or duration of the contractions the same. Also, these intervals don’t become shorter. They come back when you were just about to forget them, or at the very moment when you thought they were going to stop. There might be times when these contractions visit just before you go to sleep, affecting your bedtime and quality of sleep.

Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t as painful as true labor contractions and they don’t become more painful as time passes, either. In most cases, staying still for a while causes the pain to disappear. If you’ve heard the rumor that goes, “Having strong Braxton Hicks contractions means you’ll have a difficult labor!”, then you can forget all about it – there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove that that’s a fact.

If Braxton Hicks contractions hit, when should I go to the hospital?

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The contractions you feel prior to Month 9 of pregnancy aren’t true labor contractions so there is no need for you to go down to your practitioner’s. Rest well. Monitor your situation closely and go to the practitioner’s when the need arises.

However, the following symptoms are exceptions, and it’s recommended that you head to the hospital as soon as possible.

Abdominal cramps don’t stop and the abdominal tightness doesn’t go away

Braxton Hicks contractions become less painful as time goes by. When you feel extreme pain or when the contractions make you bunch up in pain, then it might be an indication that you’re going into labor.

No fetal movement

As delivery approaches, you might feel fewer or weaker fetal movement. That’s normal, but you must be on the alert for the complete absence of fetal movement. This might mean that something is wrong with the fetus. If you don’t feel any movement in a 24-hour period, notify your practitioner!

Waters break or the bloody show appears

When your water breaks or when the bloody show appears, you’re going to go into labor soon. Once your waters break, you become more susceptible to getting infections, so don’t do any self-diagnosis and go to the practitioner’s immediately.

Intervals between contractions become regular

Braxton Hicks contractions can become regular. If the contractions become stronger, more painful, and shorten to intervals of about 10 minutes, then you should head down to the hospital.

Braxton Hicks Contractions tell you that true labor is coming!

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Braxton Hicks contractions don’t happen to everyone. Some moms seem to have it good – labor comes to them straightaway. Even if you don’t have any Braxton Hicks contractions, your uterus is actually doing its job and is preparing for labor and delivery! There is no need to worry – you might want to thank your lucky stars instead! No Braxton Hicks contractions to worry about? Look forward to labor and delivery then!