Your Complete Guide to Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks are practice or warmup contractions. They do not lead to childbirth, but they are great for prepping the uterus and body for childbirth. Generally, Braxton Hicks is described as the tightening of the uterus that comes and goes. Some individuals describe it as a tight hug, period-like cramps, others describe it as their stomach feeling heavy, and some do not notice it at all. Braxton Hicks are not a universal experience, some individuals never have Braxton Hicks, and that is no problem!

A common misconception is that labor is imminent if someone has regular Braxton Hicks. Unfortunately, this is not true. Braxton Hicks can occur in the last weeks and months of pregnancy without birth occurring. Most of the time, Braxton Hicks do not dilate the cervix, but they can soften it and work mainly to tone the uterus.

The Causes of Braxton Hicks

Towards the end of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks might come and go, not triggered by anything other than your birthing day is soon. However, certain events can cause Braxton Hicks, and it is essential to take note of them. One thing that commonly causes Braxton Hicks is dehydration. The first thing I will ask someone if they state that they are having a lot of Braxton Hicks is how much water they have been intaking. Another cause for these practice contractions is sex or vigorous exercise. Another cause of Braxton Hicks is having to pee. Although there are times when you can do something to get your uterus to calm down, other times, it is just part of pregnancy. Allowing and embracing them as a part of the process is one of the best ways to handle them.

How Many Braxton Hicks Are Too Many? 

Most care providers will tell you that having more than four contractions in an hour is an excellent reason to reach out. When you contact your care provider, they will likely want to monitor your baby and your contractions and walk through whether you may have done something to trigger them or irritate the uterus. Then, once things have calmed down or picked up, your care provider will devise a game plan with you.

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Braxton Hicks Vs. Contractions

A common worry is individuals wondering how they will know the difference between Braxton Hicks and labor contractions. There are a few ways that someone might be able to tell the difference. First, labor contractions form a pattern, whereas Braxton Hicks are commonly sporadic. Another good sign that your contractions are labor is if they are getting longer, stronger, and closer together. Braxton Hicks tends to say the same in intensity and length, even if they get closer together. The third thing to do when figuring out if you are in labor or just experiencing some practice contractions is to drink water, take a warm bath, and rest. 

If your uterus is irritated, these actions can help to calm it down, which might take the contractions with it. 

Lastly, if you are in actual labor, no matter what position you are in, the contractions will continue versus with Braxton Hicks. Sometimes all it takes is a position change. If you have been lying down, get up and walk around and see whether they continue or peter out. And of course, if after you go through each of these tips you still are unsure whether this is the real deal or not, give your care provider a call. Even if it is just a warmup, a check-up is never wrong! 

When To Call Your Provider

Call your care provider immediately if any of these symptoms accompany your Braxton Hicks. Bright red bleeding, pain in the stomach, contractions that you cannot talk through, and if your water breaks. As you move through these sensations, trust your body and the process it is going through to prepare for labor and eventually to birth your child(ren). 

Braxton Hicks are just one of the many intuitive things your body knows to do, whether to tell you to slow down and take it easy or simply to prepare for the future task at hand, trust the sensations and recognize the powerful way in which your body communicates with you.


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