As women progress further into their pregnancies, they may begin to experience contractions known as braxton hicks contractions. These contractions are often responsible for the “false labors” that many women experience late in pregnancy, but they play an important role in preparing for birth.
What are braxton hicks contractions?
Braxton hicks contractions are uterine contractions that can begin as early as the second trimester of pregnancy. These contractions are very common during the third trimester and in the weeks leading up to labor and birth. These contractions, like true contractions, can last 30 to 60 seconds and can be painful or uncomfortable. These contractions are not true contractions and because of this, they are often referred to as “practice contractions.”
How can I tell the difference between real contractions and braxton hicks contractions?
Unlike true contractions, braxton hicks contractions are irregular in intensity. One contraction may be especially strong, while the following one is much weaker. Braxton hicks contractions won’t follow a specific pattern and are often erratic and unpredictable. Braxton hicks contractions will slow down and taper off over time or with help, while real contractions will not. Contractions that seem to ease up after drinking water, a warm bath or other relaxation techniques are not likely to be true contractions.
Can braxton hicks contractions occur at regular intervals?
Although braxton hicks contractions don’t typically occur at regular intervals the way that true contractions do, they can. Many women experience what is known as false labor, caused by braxton hicks contractions that came in a regular pattern for an extended period of time and then tapered off. False labor can be disappointing, but is not uncommon.
How can I ease braxton hicks contractions?
If your braxton hicks contractions are uncomfortable or painful, you may be able to relieve them by changing positions, or drinking a large glass of water. Sometimes, contractions can be caused by dehydration so ensuring you’re well-hydrated may help to reduce the intensity of braxton hicks contractions. Taking a warm bath or shower, or using a hot compress may also help provide relief.
Why do braxton hicks contractions happen?
Braxton hicks contractions can be especially frustrating for a woman who is anxiously awaiting the onset of labor, however, braxton hicks contractions do serve a purpose. Some believe that braxton hicks help to tone the uterine muscles and improve blood flow to the placenta, while others believe that they aid in the softening of the cervix prior to labor. Braxton hicks contractions are also a great way to practice using coping techniques prior to true labor.
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