Braxton Hicks Contractions
False Labor

Braxton Hicks contractions are also known as false labor or practice contractions. They get their name from the English doctor John Braxton Hicks, who described them in 1872 as the contractions that occur before the real thing.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks are explained as the muscles of your uterus tightening for a few seconds or even as long as a couple of minutes.

They can start around the 28th week of pregnancy though can begin much earlier, but you probably won’t be able to feel them until the third trimester.
This tightening is painless though pregnant women often described them as uncomfortable.

It’s common for expectant mothers who have been pregnant before to feel these contractions earlier and some more intensely.

If you do experience this tightening during pregnancy, this is a great time to practice the breathing techniques you have learnt in your child birthing class.

Braxton Hicks vs. True Labor Contractions

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between false labor and true labor pains so if you are unsure (and even if you are sure) contact our healthcare professional. It’s better to be safe and properly diagnosed.

Braxton Hicks Contractions are:

  • Infrequent and inconsistent in intensity
  • No increase in intensity or frequency, and eventually disappear
  • Unpredictable and irregular
  • More uncomfortable than painful
  • They help in preparing your body for labor even though there are is no progress like dilating.

Labor Contractions will increasingly get stronger, longer and closer together, they will not fade away at all like false labor does.

What causes Braxton Hicks Contractions?

These contractions are all part of the preparation process. They help with exercising and toning the muscles of your uterus, while encouraging blood flow to the placenta in getting ready for labor. They also help to soften the cervix.

Braxton Hicks are often triggered by certain things, the most common are:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • A very active mom or baby
  • Dehydration
  • Touching your belly
  • A full bladder

How to Alleviate Discomfort of False Labor:

Try any or all of these things to help relieve your discomfort. If nothing seems to be working you could be going into labor, so call your doctor immediately.

  • Change positions, depending on what you were doing at the time. Lie down on your left side or go for a short walk if you have been sitting.
  • Have a warm bath to help relax your body.
  • Have a glass of water or two, dehydration can actually bring on these contractions and even true labor.
  • Empty your bladder.
  • Practice your breathing techniques during contractions. Slow rhythmic breathing can help with discomfort.

What is Pre-labor?

Pre-labor is when contractions start happening more frequently and can be more intense than Braxton Hicks. These can help soften and thin out your cervix, possibly dilating a bit. Your doctor can perform an examination to determine this and to check how things are coming along. Also you can be monitored on a machine to see if you are contracting.

Call your healthcare provider if these contractions are closer than 12 minutes apart, especially before the 37th week. This could be a sign of preterm labor.

Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing contractions and:

  • You have not yet reached 37 weeks gestation
  • They are becoming more painful
  • Happening more frequently
  • Are rhythmic
  • Any vaginal bleeding, see here for signs of preterm labor!

Back to Labor and Delivery from Braxton Hicks Contractions

Return to Having Twins from False Labor Contractions


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