What Braxton Hicks contractions look like – everything you need to know


Contractions in a pregnant woman are usually the warning that labor is coming and the birth of the baby is already practically imminent. However, this is not always the case because there are times when the pregnant woman has contractions even though she is not in the final stretch of pregnancy. They are what are known as Braxton Hicks contractions, which can sometimes be mistaken for preterm labor. In, we are going to explain what Braxton Hicks contractions are like so that you know how to recognize them and if you have to go quickly to the doctor or everything is within normality.

What Braxton Hicks contractions look like - everything you need to know

What are Braxton Hicks contractions and when they start

Although, at first, you do not know this name of Braxton Hicks, the truth is that it is quite old because it was coined in 1872 as a result of the description of the contractions made by the English doctor John Braxton Hicks, thus taking its name from this doctor.

Braxton Hicks contractions usually occur in the second trimester, although they are more common in the third trimester of pregnancy. They are noticeable because the uterus contracts between 30 and 60 seconds, although this time is sometimes longer and the contraction can last up to two minutes.

Actually, these contractions do not mean that you are going to go into labor, but that the body is preparing for what is really going to happen: childbirth. Normally, these contractions are not painful, so many women live them normally and even take advantage of them to practice breathing and relaxation exercises that they learn in childbirth preparation classes.

Why Braxton Hicks contractions occur

In general, it is not very well known why Braxton Hicks contractions occur. It has been pointed out that they constitute a kind of preparation for childbirth, thus helping to tone the muscle of the uterus. In addition, it is believed that with this movement, the influx of blood to the placenta is also facilitated.

Anyway, it has been observed that there are a number of factors or causes that influence or cause a pregnant woman to have these contractions and that appear to a greater or lesser extent:

  • The baby is very active, thus generating more movement in the uterus. Braxton Hicks contractions can also occur due to increased activity of the mother or when performing physical activity.
  • The bladder is full, pressing on the area and nearby nerve endings.
  • After sex. This is usual for the changes that occur in the woman's body during sexual arousal and orgasm, since muscle spasms are generated.

How to Recognize Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are recognized by a number of signals that differentiate them from labor contractions:

  • Irregular intensity: contractions occur with different intensity. That is, each one is different, they do not last the same either. In addition, there is no increase in their intensity or in the frequency with which they are had, which does happen with those of true childbirth.
  • Uncommon: it is not usual for them to occur periodically or from time to time. Rather you have some contraction in isolation.
  • Unpredictable: it is not known when the contraction will occur. It can appear at any time, although as we have already mentioned it is more common to happen in the second trimester and third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Pain: In general, Braxton Hicks contractions do not hurt, rather they are usually annoying. However, there are women who do claim to feel some pain.
  • Disappearance: when the contraction has occurred, then they disappear completely, and this is important because those of childbirth do not disappear.

Tips to relieve the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions

If you find Braxton Hicks contractions painful or too uncomfortable, you can follow a series of very useful and easy to practice tips:

  • Change position in bed: normally, these contractions are more noticeable at night, so it is good that you do not sleep in the same posture, especially if you have contractions. It is also not beneficial that you are in the same position for a long time, if they happen to you when you are not in bed. If you take a short walk, you will notice relief. In the following article, you can see How to sleep better during pregnancy.
  • Drink an infusion or hot milk: the heat of these drinks will help relax the abdomen and, consequently, you will notice less contractions.
  • Take a hot bath: hot water is also very useful to relax the whole area.
  • Relaxation exercises: Controlling your breathing and doing exercises like the ones you're probably learning to do in childbirth preparation classes will also help you feel better.

When to Worry About Braxton Hicks Contractions

Having contractions always alerts future moms, especially when they are first-timers and, although Braxton Hicks contractions initially do not entail any problem, the truth is that you have to worry and go quickly to the doctor if:

  • You have contractions, you are not yet in the 37th week of pregnancy, they are followed and they hurt.
  • You notice pain in your belly, which is similar to when you have your period, or it is very strong and constant.
  • Contractions are followed and performed with a rhythmic frequency. That is, they always happen every ‘x' minutes.
  • You have bleeding, even if it's a small vaginal bleed.
  • Increase your vaginal discharge or notice any changes in it.
  • You feel a lot of pressure on the pelvis, as if the baby is pushing down.
  • Pain in the lower back that is rhythmic.

With these explanations we hope we have helped you to know what braxton Hick’s contractions are like. From, we recommend that you always consult with a specialist any doubt and any symptoms you have.


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