Intermittent, mild uterine contractions that start around six weeks into a pregnancy are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. The upcoming article provides in-depth information about this unique phenomenon experienced by most pregnant women.
Pregnancy is a remarkable phase in a woman’s life that brings about a lot of unexpected, unpleasant changes apart from the feeling of elation. Braxton Hicks contractions can appear as early as the second trimester, but are most commonly felt in the third trimester. When this happens, the uterus muscles tighten for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. They are also known as ‘practice contractions’ or ‘false labor’ because they are a preparation for the final event. These contractions are characterized by the following features: non-rhythmic, infrequent, unpredictable, and irregular in intensity. They are named after Dr. Braxton Hicks, an English physician, who first identified them.
The contractions felt are considered to be normal extensions of cramping in early pregnancy, unless they are very discomforting or severe. Initially, these contractions are so mild that most people do not even feel them in the first few weeks. However, as the pregnancy progresses, these contractions tend to become more frequent in their occurrence, which is the reason many women feel that they are going into labor, especially when they experience such contractions in the third trimester. This time period is referred to as pre-labor, and is often mistaken as labor itself.
Probable Causes of Occurrence
- Some physicians believe that these contractions promote the flow of blood to the placenta, and assist in toning the uterine muscle.
- Also, known to play a key role in the softening of the cervix.
These contractions fluctuate in an inconsistent pattern which leads to tightening in the abdominal region. Most women compare this feeling to menstrual cramps experienced during menstruation.
Difference Between Braxton Hicks and Labor Contractions
Features of Braxton Hicks Contractions
- Are irregular and infrequent
- Stop upon changing activity from sitting to walking or standing to sitting
- Are unpredictable and non-rhythmic
- Do not last long and do not increase in intensity
- Not accompanied by cervical changes
Features of Labor Contractions
- More regular, frequent, and painful
- Tend to last longer
- Tend to increase in intensity and frequency
- Changing your activity or position intermittently helps a great deal in providing relief.
- Walking helps in alleviating this contraction to a large extent, but do remember not to overwork yourself.
- Bathing with warm water provides immense relaxation.
- Dehydration is often considered to be a major cause, as it can lead to muscle cramping. Therefore, ensure to have adequate amounts of water.
- Relaxation techniques involving slow and rhythmic breathing can help you cope with this discomfort.
More often than not, these contractions are very mild and aren’t really a cause for alarm. However, if one experiences them frequently, contact your health care provider at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.