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    Braxton Hicks Contractions or Real Labor: How to Tell Them Apart?

    Pregnancy

    Braxton Hicks Contractions or Real Labor: How to Tell Them Apart?

    Updated on 6 February 2024

    As the due date approaches, the anticipation and excitement of welcoming your little one can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. One of the mysteries of late pregnancy is the age-old question: "Are these contractions the real deal, or just another round of Braxton Hicks Contractions?" Don't worry, you're not alone in this puzzling predicament.

    In this article, we're going to delve into the nitty-gritty of differentiating between Braxton Hicks and the onset of real labor. So, grab a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's unravel the secrets of those tummy tightenings together!

    Braxton Hicks Meaning

    What are Braxton Hicks? Braxton Hicks are sporadic uterine contractions that can occur during pregnancy. They are often referred to as "practice contractions" because they help to prepare the uterus for labor. These contractions are named after the British doctor who first described them, John Braxton Hicks, in the 19th century.

    Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause the cervix to dilate and are generally painless. However, they can still be uncomfortable and cause some confusion for pregnant women who are unsure if they are experiencing true labor or false.

    Braxton Hicks Symptoms

    Many women wonder what do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like so, let us understand the tell-tale signs of these contractions:

    1. Tightening of the abdomen

    One of the main signs of Braxton Hicks is a tightening or hardening of the abdomen. This sensation is often described as feeling like the belly is being squeezed or tightened.

    2. Irregular contractions

    Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton Hicks do not follow a regular pattern. They may come and go at irregular intervals, varying in duration and intensity.

    3. No increase in intensity

    Braxton Hicks typically do not increase in intensity over time. They may be uncomfortable or even slightly painful, but they do not become more intense with each contraction.

    4. Relief with movement

    Changing positions or engaging in gentle movement may provide some relief from Braxton Hicks. They may lessen or even stop altogether when you change your activity or position.

    You may also like: 7 Signs of Labor: Know What to Expect

    When Do Braxton Hicks Start?

    Braxton Hicks contractions can start as early as the second trimester of pregnancy, but they are most commonly experienced in the third trimester. Some women may not notice them at all, while others may feel them more frequently and intensely.

    The frequency and intensity of these contractions can vary from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. It is important to remember that every woman's experience with Braxton Hicks is unique.

    Key Differences Between Braxton Hicks Contractions and Real Labor

    Here are the major differences between real and false contractions:

    1. Regular contractions

    Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals and become closer together over time. Braxton Hicks, on the other hand, are irregular and do not follow a consistent pattern.

    2. Increasing intensity

    Real labor contractions gradually become more intense and painful as labor progresses. False contractions, on the other hand, generally do not increase in intensity.

    3. Lower back pain

    Real labor contractions often cause intense lower back pain, while Braxton Hicks typically do not.

    4. Cervical changes

    Real labor contractions cause the cervix to dilate and efface, while Braxton Hicks contractions do not lead to any changes in the cervix.

    5. Progression of contractions

    Real labor contractions usually become more frequent, longer, and stronger as labor progresses. Braxton Hicks may come and go without any consistent progression.

    6. Water breaking

    The rupture of the amniotic sac, also known as the water breaking, is a sign of real labor. Braxton Hicks do not cause the water to break.

    7. Bloody show

    A small amount of blood or mucus discharge, known as the bloody show, is a sign of real labor. It does not occur with Braxton Hicks contractions.

    You may also like: Normal Delivery Tips: An Expecting Mother's Guide to a Smooth Childbirth Experience

    Factors That Can Increase the Frequency of Braxton Hicks

    There are several factors that can increase the frequency of Braxton Hicks. These include:

    1. Dehydration

    Not drinking enough water can lead to increased false contractions. Staying hydrated is important during pregnancy to prevent dehydration and minimize contractions.

    2. Physical activity

    Engaging in excessive physical activity or lifting heavy objects can trigger more frequent Braxton Hicks. It is important to listen to your body and avoid overexertion.

    3. Full bladder

    A full bladder can irritate the uterus and lead to more frequent contractions. Emptying your bladder regularly can help alleviate this.

    4. Sexual activity

    Sexual activity can stimulate the uterus and cause Braxton Hicks. If you experience discomfort or increased contractions after intercourse, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider.

    5. Stress or anxiety

    Stress and anxiety can contribute to an increase in false contractions. Finding ways to relax and manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in activities you enjoy, can help reduce their frequency.

    6. Multiple pregnancies

    Women carrying multiples, such as twins or triplets, may experience more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions due to the increased pressure on the uterus.

    7. Uterine irritability

    Some women naturally have a more irritable uterus, which can lead to more frequent Braxton Hicks. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, but it is important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

    You may also like: Which Is Better Normal Or Cesarean Delivery?

    Tips to Manage Braxton Hicks

    Here are some tips to manage false contractions:

    1. Stay hydrated

    Drinking plenty of water can help reduce the frequency of Braxton Hicks contractions. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

    2. Change positions

    If you are experiencing uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions, try changing positions. Lying on your side or taking a warm bath may provide some relief.

    3. Practice relaxation techniques

    Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or prenatal yoga, can help alleviate the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions.

    4. Avoid overexertion

    Excessive physical activity can trigger more frequent Braxton Hicks. Listen to your body and avoid overexertion.

    5. Empty your bladder regularly

    A full bladder can irritate the uterus and lead to more frequent contractions. Emptying your bladder regularly can help reduce their occurrence.

    6. Manage stress

    Stress and anxiety can contribute to an increase in Braxton Hicks contractions. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in activities you enjoy.

    You may also like: Follow These 6 Labor Tips and Rock Your First Birth

    FAQs

    1. What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

    Braxton Hicks are often described as a tightening or hardening of the abdomen. They may feel like the belly is being squeezed or tightened. Some women may also experience mild discomfort or a dull ache during these contractions.

    2. Why am I having so many Braxton-Hicks contractions?

    There are several factors that can contribute to an increase in Braxton Hicks. Dehydration, physical activity, a full bladder, stress, multiple pregnancies, and uterine irritability can all lead to more frequent contractions. If you are concerned about the frequency of your contractions, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider.

    3. When to be concerned about Braxton Hicks?

    In most cases, Braxton Hicks are a normal part of pregnancy and not a cause for concern. However, if you experience symptoms like contractions that become regular and increase in intensity, severe or persistent abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina, it is important to contact your healthcare provider.

    Key Takeaways

    Braxton Hicks contractions are practice contractions that help prepare the uterus for labor. They are often painless and do not cause the cervix to dilate. Differentiating between Braxton Hicks and real labor can be challenging, but understanding the key differences and paying attention to your body's signals can help. If you have any concerns or questions about your contractions, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider for guidance and reassurance.

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    Written by

    Anupama Chadha

    Anupama Chadha, born and raised in Delhi is a content writer who has written extensively for industries such as HR, Healthcare, Finance, Retail and Tech.

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