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Braxton Hicks Contractions

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Most pregnant women experience these sometimes irritating “contractions”, and are unsure if they really contractions if they normal, and if they are dangerous? These are questions that many women ask as their pregnancy progresses past the first trimester.

In reality, Braxton Hicks contractions, named after an English doctor from the 19th Century, John Braxton Hicks, are a normal part of every pregnancy and start when a woman is still in her first trimester, at about 6 weeks pregnant into the pregnancy. However, most women don’t feel them until at least late in the second trimester, or for first-time mothers, in the third trimester.

What is a Braxton Hicks Contraction?
A Braxton Hicks contraction is a contraction of the uterus that is normally painless, but can sometimes be quite irritating. It consists of a localized tightening in your belly, which does not travel, but stays in one spot. These are considered to be practice contractions, to prepare you for the real thing when labor does start. Braxton Hicks contractions can be intense enough to take your breath away, and make you stop and take notice, but they generally do not cause any change in your cervix, nor are they a sign of preterm labor.

How Do I Know it is Not the Real Thing?
If you uterus is contracting, but there is no pain, especially prior to the last few weeks of pregnancy, it is probably just a normal Braxton Hicks contraction. If you are in the third trimester, and close to delivering, you may question them more.

To see if your contractions go away, or are the start of the real thing, try changing position in bed or on the couch. If you are walking around, sit down and rest and visa versa. Try taking a warm bath to see if that relaxes you. If your contractions are Braxton Hicks, then these tips should help them go away, for the time being at least.

When Should I Call My Doctor or Midwife?
You should always call your provider if you have questions or concerns about how your pregnancy is progressing. If you are not at the end of your pregnancy and your Braxton Hicks contractions won’t go away by trying the above methods, and are instead getting more frequent, intense or painful, you should call your doctor or midwife to let them know, and see if they recommend coming in to the office or hospital to be checked.

As you get close to 37 weeks pregnant, towards the end of the third trimester, ask your doctor or midwife when they will want you to inform them about ongoing contractions. Most providers will have a set time that they tell you, normally when the contractions are 5 minutes apart or less, and last for an extended amount of time. When in doubt, it is always best to call and ask.


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