What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

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braxton hicks contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions!! If this is your first pregnancy, you may be wondering what are those Braxton Hicks contractions everyone keeps talking about?

Well first let’s start off with WHY they are called Braxton Hicks contractions. After all, that is a funny name. They were named after a 19th century obstetrician, who went by the name John Braxton Hicks. He did a lot of research in obstetrics and actually made a ton of advances in the field. You can read more about his work here.

WHY DO BRAXTON HICKS CONTRACTIONS HAPPEN?

Your uterus, pelvic floor, and abdomen are all made up of muscles. When you are in labor, the muscles of your uterus contract around baby, slowly pushing him/her down through your pelvis. Once baby is low enough in your pelvis, baby crowns, and you push him/her out. This process of contracting baby far enough down into your pelvis until you are 10 centimeters dilated is called the first stage of labor. Your uterus has to practice being in labor, before actually being in labor.

Think about if you were preparing to be in a huge production play. You wouldn’t just wait until the big day and get up on stage, would you? No, you would practice your lines weeks, sometimes months in advance for the big day.

Well this is what your uterus is doing. It’s practicing for the big debut!

When you have a Braxton Hicks contraction, your uterus will gently tighten for 30-60 seconds (but sometimes as long as 2 minutes). Sometimes following a pattern, but not usually.

Braxton Hicks contractions are typically infrequent, unpredictable, and irregular. This means you may have a few back to back for a few minutes, but then not have one for a few hours.

WHAT DO BRAXTON HICKS FEEL LIKE?

Braxton Hicks contractions are typically described more as uncomfortable, than painful. Although, some women do report them as painful cramping. Some women do not report pain, and some women do not feel them at all!

If you are unsure about what you are feeling, or if you are having extreme abdominal pain, please consult your provider. Also check out  these warning signs to watch out for during your pregnancy.

If you happen to notice your belly is getting hard intermittently every once in awhile, but it’s not really bothering you too much, you are probably having Braxton Hicks contractions!

WHEN DO THEY HAPPEN?

Most women report the majority of their Braxton Hicks contractions occurring in the third trimester. However they can appear as early as the second trimester.

I was 20 weeks pregnant when I felt my first Braxton Hicks contraction. And, I had them almost every day up until delivery.

Every pregnancy varies. Some women have irritable uteruses, and they tend to have more than the average person.

Some common causes include:

  • increased activity
  • sexual intercourse
  • a full bladder
  • dehydration

CAN I DO ANYTHING TO ALLEVIATE THEM?

There are a few things that you can do to calm them down:

 

DRINK WATER

Your uterus contracts much more when you are dehydrated. In fact, if you are dehydrated, those Braxton Hicks contractions might actually HURT! This is the #1 way to slow down those Braxton Hicks, always keep a huge water bottle near you.

EMPTY YOUR BLADDER

I know, you probably already pee 20 times a day. Well the truth is, if your bladder is full, it can definitely cause your uterus to contract more, so go pee!

CHANGE POSITIONS

An increase in activity can cause your uterus to contract more. Sometimes simply lying down and resting can help to calm things down.

A HOT BATH OR WARM COMPRESS

Just how a warm heating pad helps menstrual cramps or a backache, heat will help relax those muscles, and alleviate discomfort.

Did you have many Braxton Hicks contractions during your pregnancy? Tell me in the comments!

And…if those Braxton Hicks contractions turn into labor, learn about what happens at delivery here!

Looking for more pregnancy education? CHECK THIS OUT! Hillary from Pulling Curls is a fellow labor and delivery nurse, and she created a fantastic ONLINE PRENATAL COURSE.

That’s right, she goes over EVERYTHING, and you don’t have to even have to leave your couch! You get all the benefits of a traditional in-class style course, but you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home!

UPDATE: Use code LABORTEEN for an extra 10% off any course!

Happy Laboring! 🙂

 

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