Braxton-Hicks Contractions are also called prodromal labor or ‘practice contractions and have popularly got their name after an English doctor John Braxton-Hicks, who was the pioneer in describing them as early as in 1872. False labor or Braxton Hicks contractions are characterized as sporadic contractions of the uterine musculature. They usually start somewhere when the pregnancy is around six weeks. But they are mostly perceived during second or third trimester. If you are in your 37th week of pregnancy and get more than four contractions in an hour, immediately consult your doctor.
You will observe that your uterus has tightened because of muscles getting tense and hormone oxytocin, and contractions will be infrequent and irregular. These contractions is your body’s way to prepare itself for labor. Most likely in the third trimester, the Braxton-Hicks Contractions are pretty common for pregnant women, though some women never experience them. Below signs are observed during Braxton-Hicks contractions, unlike true labor:
Your pregnancy hormones – which are slowly sending signals to your brain to prepare your body for labor and childbirth. Though they can be uncomfortable and you might feel it difficult to distinguish between real and false labor, just remember that they are not efficient or strong to push your baby out. You will start to notice them sometime after your 20th week of pregnancy, intensifying as you get into the later stages of pregnancy. They particularly increase around the 32nd week of pregnancy till you go into real labor.
When you have true labor pains, the contractions become longer, closer and stronger while Braxton-Hicks contractions are shorter, weaker and intermittent. They are not very painful and do not have a rhythmic pattern. They are called false labor pains as they fluctuate and have an inconsistent pattern. They get subsided on walking or lying down. They are like tightening in abdomen and will pass off without becoming closer. On the contrary, true labor pains the contractions are close together, increases on walking and last long.
Real labor pains manifest as dull ache or discomfort in your back or lower abdomen. You will feel pressure on your pelvis. You might also experience pain or cramps in legs and thighs. Women often explain the nature of true labor pains as cramps experienced in diarrhea or menstruation. True labor also increases in intensity with each time you have a contraction, whereas Braxton-Hicks contractions come and go as lightening. The below signs will easily help you identifying Braxton-Hicks contractions:
Some simple ways to alleviate Braxton-Hicks contractions are:
Some people call them practice contractions, but they do not dilate the cervix. However, they are helpful in toning the uterine musculature and facilitate the blood flow to the fetal placenta. When your pregnancy approaches the due date, your cervix become ripe and soft. This is natural preparation for the onset of labor. The contractions become intense and frequent. No cervical changes are associated with Braxton-Hicks contractions. The labor pains cause effacement of cervix (thinning of cervix) and its dilatation. This phase is often referred to as ‘pre-labor stage’.
You should call your caregiver immediately under following conditions:
Clarify all doubts regarding pains from your doctor. Do not feel hesitant and clear all questions regarding baby and delivery Remember, it is always better to stay safe than regret afterwards. You can even ask your doctor to tell you more about false labor pains and how to differentiate it from the true ones.
Remember pregnancy is a beautiful and lifelong experience. Proper knowledge about the various phases of this amazing journey will enable you to enjoy it with comfort!