Braxton Hicks Contractions

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton hicks contractions are also known as false labor pains. They can begin as early as the second trimester of pregnancy but are more common in the third trimester. When they happen the woman becomes aware of the muscles in her tummy tensing for 30 to 60 seconds and sometimes as long as 2 minutes. What is happening is that the uterus (womb) is practicing contractions in preparation for birth. Actually these contractions start quite early in pregnancy but usually only become noticeable a few weeks before term. They are named after the doctor who first noticed them. Occasionally they are strong enough to be mistaken for true labor.

What Is The Difference Between True And False Labor?

Braxton Hicks False Labor True Labor
There is no progression of contractions: they are irregular and unpredictable. For example contractions can occur 10 minutes, 6 minutes, 2 minutes and then 8 minutes apart. Contractions develops in a regular pattern growing progressively closer together. The contractions last more than 30 seconds from the start and get progressively longer up to 60 seconds.
Feels like a general abdominal tightening which tends to be concentrated in the lower abdomen and groin. Pain tends to begin high in the abdomen and radiates through the entire abdomen and lower back.
Changing positions or walking around stops or slows down contractions. Contractions continue to progress regardless of what the mother does.
No bloody show. You may see bloody show. See early signs of labor.
Membranes have not ruptured (water hasn't broke). Membranes rupture.

What Triggers Braxton Hicks Contractions?

The following triggers may cause Braxton Hicks:

• If mom or baby is very active.
• Someone touches mom's belly.
• Mom's bladder is full.
• Dehydration, not taking in enough fluids.
• After sexual intercourse. Read about sexual intercourse while pregnant.

What Can I Do To Stop It?

Change positions: If you have been lying down or sitting, go for a walk.
Warm bath: Take a warm bath for 30 minutes (or less).
Drink fluids: As false contractions can be caused by dehydration, drink a couple glasses of water, or herbal tea.

If none of these self-help remedies work, contact your healthcare team for advice.

Related Articles

Pregnancy cramps: Preterm labor cramps, cramps while sleeping and more.
How do I know if I'm in labor?: Recognizing the signs.
How many cesareans can you have?: Is there a limit?
What are the signs of a miscarriage?: 5 typical signs.

How Early Did Your Braxton Hicks Start? Personal Stories

My doctor told me that Braxton Hicks contractions can start as early week 8 after conception, but you can't really feel them at that point. I felt them for the first time around week 20. It felt like a tightening in my lower abdomen, I think it was my uterus bunching up. My doctor said not to worry, it's quite normal - even if the contractions get uncomfortable or slightly painful.
Val, Aurora

I had my first Braxton hicks at week 18. Then they stopped and I didn't get them again until I was nearly due. Earlier in the pregnancy they were very light, but towards the end they became a little painful. It felt like a tightening lower down in my belly - but because the pain didn't spread across the entire belly or back, I knew they were false labor pains.
Casey, Tampa

I started noticing them at 28 weeks. I didn't feel anything unless I happened to touch my lower tummy and felt how hard it was. At about 33 weeks I could feel the tightening. It made the baby super active when it passed.
Ariana, Portland

• Need more information about labor? See: Guide to Childbirth
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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