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Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions

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Some body changes during pregnancy can be confusing. One of these changes is Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are uncomfortable during pregnancy and are sometimes known as false labor pains.

Sometimes, these contractions are confused with real labor contractions. Unlike true labor, Braxton Hicks is irregular in frequency, less intense, and usually goes away with a change of position. They are the body’s way of preparing for labor, but it does not mean labor is coming.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Before you go into labor, you may have false labor contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These irregular uterine contractions are normal and may begin in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. A contraction is when the uterus tightens and then relaxes. Contractions are the body’s way of preparing for the actual birth.

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

Braxton Hicks contractions are like a tightening in the lower abdomen; the degree of tightness can be different. You may not notice mild contractions, but more severe ones may take your breath away. Some women describe them as similar to menstrual cramps.

Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton Hicks do not get closer together. They come and go, weaker or stronger, without any pattern. These contractions may start from the 6th week of pregnancy. However, you will probably feel them once you’re well into your second or third trimester.

They may be infrequent at first, occurring only a few times daily. As you enter your third trimester and get closer to delivery, Braxton Hicks contractions may occur several times an hour and hours at a time.

They will be frequent, especially if you are dehydrated or on your feet. As a result, contractions may stop after resting, drinking water, or changing position.

causes Braxton Hicks contractions

What causes Braxton Hicks contractions?

The exact cause of  contractions isn’t fully understood, but several factors may contribute:

  • Uterine stretching: As the uterus expands during pregnancy to accommodate the growing fetus, the muscle fibers in the uterus may occasionally contract and relax, causing Braxton Hicks contractions.
  • Dehydration: Mild dehydration can sometimes trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. Staying well-hydrated throughout pregnancy can help prevent them.
  • Physical activity: Certain physical activities or movements, such as walking, lifting heavy objects, or having sex, can sometimes stimulate Braxton Hicks contractions.
  • Full bladder: A full bladder can irritate the uterus and trigger contractions. Emptying the bladder may relieve or reduce the intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions in some cases.
  • Emotional stress: Stress and anxiety can sometimes lead to Braxton Hicks contractions. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or taking a warm bath, may help alleviate them.

Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular, relatively mild, and don’t increase in intensity or frequency over time. However, if you’re experiencing contractions and are unsure whether they’re Braxton-Hicks or signs of labor, it’s always best to contact your healthcare provider for guidance.

How long do Braxton Hicks contractions last?

The length and timing of Braxton Hicks contractions varies from person to person. Still, they usually don’t get longer or stronger as they progress, differentiating them from true labor contractions. These exercise contractions do not follow a consistent pattern and eventually fade. It is also common for Braxton Hicks to stop or ease if you move around or change position.

If you notice that your contractions are becoming more regular, longer, or more painful, it’s a good idea to call your doctor, as these could be signs of real labor. If you experience a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions or have them throughout the day, it may be due to dehydration or too much activity. However, it’s always best to double-check with your healthcare provider.

Braxton Hicks contractions vs. real labor

The main difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor pain is that Braxton Hicks contractions occur at random intervals and can be triggered by daily activities. In contrast, labor pains occur in a clear pattern regardless of what you do and will intensify over time.

Here are some key features that can help you tell if you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, are in labor, or are dealing with the natural changes that occur as your body adjusts to carrying a growing baby.


Braxton Hicks has no pattern. They do not occur at regular intervals or become closer together over time. On the other hand, labor contractions last about 60 to 90 seconds, have a specific pattern, and increase over time.


Braxton Hicks often starts when you’re dehydrated, especially active, or when your baby moves. Drinking a large glass of water, changing your position, or taking some rest can make them go away.


Braxton Hicks tends to feel painless, weak, or start strong but weak. Labor contractions become stronger and more painful over time.


You usually feel Braxton Hicks only in your abdomen. While some people describe their actual labor as just abdominal pain, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that actual labor contractions usually start as discomfort in your back that moves down to your lower abdomen and pelvis.

treatments for Braxton Hicks

Are there treatments for Braxton Hicks?

Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal part of pregnancy and typically don’t require specific treatment. However, there are several strategies you can try to alleviate any discomfort they may cause:

  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can sometimes trigger contractions, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Change positions: If you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, changing positions or activities may help. Sometimes, lying down on your left side or taking a warm bath can provide relief.
  • Empty your bladder: A full bladder can irritate the uterus and trigger contractions. Emptying your bladder may help reduce the intensity or frequency of Braxton Hicks contractions.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Stress and anxiety can sometimes exacerbate Braxton Hicks contractions. Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or prenatal yoga, may help alleviate them.
  • Avoid overexertion: Certain physical activities or movements, such as lifting heavy objects or strenuous exercise, can sometimes stimulate Braxton Hicks contractions. Avoid overexertion and listen to your body’s cues.
  • Seek reassurance: If you’re unsure whether the contractions you’re experiencing are Braxton Hicks or signs of preterm labor, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider for guidance and reassurance.

It’s important to note that while Braxton Hicks contractions are usually harmless, if you experience any concerning symptoms alongside contractions, such as vaginal bleeding, fluid leakage, or intense pelvic pressure, seek medical attention promptly, as these could be signs of preterm labor or other complications.

Other causes of abdominal pain

Other causes of abdominal pain

Braxton-Hicks is not the only cause of abdominal pain and cramps during pregnancy.  Labor is not the only other option. Consider that you may experience one of the following conditions.

Urinary tract infection

As the baby grows, the uterus puts pressure on the bladder. This means you have to urinate more, plus there’s more opportunity for urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Beyond abdominal pain, you may experience anything from burning with urination to frequent/urgent trips to the bathroom and a fever.

Gas or constipation

Gas and bloating may worsen during pregnancy due to high hormone progesterone levels. Constipation is another stomach problem that may cause discomfort and even pain.  Constipation is very common during pregnancy. If increasing fluid and fiber intake and exercising more doesn’t help, ask your doctor about laxatives and stool softeners to help get you moving again.

Round ligament pain

Severe pain in the right or left abdomen may be round ligament pain. Round ligament pain happens when the ligaments that support your uterus stretch to accommodate and support your growing belly.

More serious issues

Placental abruption is when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus. It may cause severe and persistent pain and make the uterus very hard or rigid.

Preeclampsia is a condition in which your blood pressure rises to unsafe levels. You may feel upper abdominal pain near the chest, especially on the right side.

These issues require immediate medical attention. So, if you think you’re having Braxton Hicks contractions, but the pain is intense and won’t let up, seek medical help as soon as possible.

The bottom line

Braxton Hicks contractions are one of the most common pregnancy symptoms in pregnant women, which are very similar to cramping and real labor contractions, but unlike them, they do not cause the cervix to dilate and on the contrary, they prepare the body and uterus for natural childbirth. Another difference between these types of cramps and labor cramps is that they are usually painless or with mild pain, transient and scattered.

Dehydration, diseases associated with nausea, sexual intercourse, or maternal activity are among the causes of Braxton Hicks. If the cramps are more severe and accompanied by pain or other symptoms, it is better to consult a gynecologist immediately.

Additional questions

  1. Does the baby move during Braxton Hicks?

Yes, the fetus can still move during Braxton Hicks contractions and actual labor contractions. Every fetus moves differently, so it is difficult to predict whether or not the fetus will move during contractions. Some say they feel less fetal movement, while others feel more movement during contractions.

  1. What are real labor contractions?

Real contractions happen when the body releases oxytocin, which stimulates the uterus to contract. True contractions tighten the upper part of the uterus to push the baby down into the birth canal in preparation for delivery. They also thin the cervix to help the baby pass through. The sensation of an actual contraction is described as a wave. The pain starts low, increases until it peaks, and finally subsides.

  1. Does the fullness of the bladder affect the child?

Acute urinary retention (AUR) is a rare occurrence during pregnancy. If it is not treated in time, it can lead to rupture of the bladder, miscarriage, or even rupture of the uterus, and other serious consequences that endanger the health of the mother and fetus.

  1. When to worry about pelvic pain in pregnancy?

A healthcare provider should check pelvic pain during pregnancy if it is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms that could indicate a complication. Here are key situations when you should seek medical advice:

  • Severe or persistent pain
  • Symptoms of preterm labor
  • Fever or chills
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Nausea and vomiting with pain
  • Sudden onset of pain
  1. What are the symptoms of premature labor?

Premature birth is defined as any birth that occurs from week 20 to week 36 of pregnancy. These symptoms include:

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Feeling of pressure in the pelvis
  • Low and vague back pain
  • Cramps that resemble menstrual cramps
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea