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Braxton Hicks Contractions

Your body changes in some incredible ways to accommodate your growing baby while you’re pregnant. Braxton hicks contractions are one of the signs of your body changing and preparing for birth.

The obstetricians at Maiden Lane Medical in Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY have helped countless mothers through pregnancy and successful births. They are happy to answer your questions about pregnancy, including the nitty-gritty about Braxton Hicks contractions.

A pregnant woman feeling discomfort from Braxton Hicks contractions.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Discovered by John Braxton Hicks in 1872, Braxton Hicks contractions feel like irregular tightening or cramping sensations similar to mild menstrual cramps in your abdomen that occur when your uterus contracts. Sometimes called false labor, these contractions are perfectly normal and are signs that your body is getting ready for labor. They’re uncomfortable and feel like tightening or cramping, but they shouldn’t be painful.

When Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Usually Start?

It’s common to feel Braxton Hicks contractions in the second or third trimester. It’s also possible to not experience them at all. You should talk to your obstetrician if you think you are starting labor or if you have abdominal pain at any point during your pregnancy. The physical changes of pregnancy can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful.

What Triggers Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Many factors can trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. Some of the common contributors include:

  • Dehydration
  • Physical activity
  • Full bladder
  • Sexual intercourse

It’s also more common to experience these sensations at the end of the day. You’re also more likely to experience Braxton Hicks as your pregnancy progresses and you get closer to your due date. 

A woman with Braxton Hicks taking a walk to relieve her contraction discomfort.

Do Braxton Hicks Mean Labor is Coming?

While these contractions mean that your body is getting ready for labor, they don’t indicate that the baby is on its way. 

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Real and False Labor Contractions?

There are some key differences between true labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions. 

True labor contractions cause discomfort and pressure in your lower abdomen, pelvis, and back. You might also have pain in your sides or thighs. Labor contractions occur at regular intervals and become more frequent and painful as you get closer to giving birth.

Eventually, walking and talking will be difficult. Additionally, labor contractions don’t change or get worse if you shift positions or move around. Labor contractions may also be accompanied by your water breaking or losing your mucus plug. 

Braxton Hicks contractions, unlike true labor contractions, have irregular timing and don’t get closer together. Their duration is unpredictable, and they vary in severity. Taking a walk or changing positions will often relieve the discomfort caused by your contractions. You’ll feel false contractions at the front of your belly and usually won’t have any other symptoms. 

Does the Baby Feel Anything During Braxton Hicks?

Braxton Hicks contractions don’t have any impact on your baby. However, if your baby is very active and moving around, it could trigger your false labor pains. Your baby can continue to move during Braxton Hicks contractions, although you might not feel as much movement during the contractions.

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Why Am I Having So Many Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Some women have many false contractions. You may also be getting closer to starting true labor. Your uterine muscle will contract to prepare for real labor. 

Can I Do Anything to Relieve Braxton Hicks?

Yes, there are a few steps you can take to relieve your discomfort. For example, if you’ve been sitting or lying still, get up and move around. If possible, take a walk. If you have contractions while you’re already moving, sit or lie down to rest.

A short warm bath, prenatal massage, or relaxing with a book can also ease the tightening or cramping. Sometimes a small snack or emptying your bladder will relieve your discomfort. You should also drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Should I Talk to My OB/GYN About Braxton Hicks?

While you don’t necessarily need to worry about Braxton Hicks, you should talk to your OB/GYN about all the symptoms you experience during pregnancy. Your pregnancy team at Maiden Lane Medical can answer your questions and provide information and support to help you feel confident during your pregnancy and labor. 

However, there are times when you should call your provider immediately if you have abdominal cramping or pain, including if you have:

  • Bright red vaginal bleeding
  • Continuous wetness or leaking fluid — a “gush” of fluid is a common sign of your water breaking
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • A change in vaginal discharge (becomes watery, mucus-like, or bloody)
  • Strong contractions every five minutes for more than an hour
  • Contractions that limit your ability to walk or talk
  • Change in your baby’s movement or if you feel your baby move less than ten times in an hour. 

Additionally, if you’re close to labor and head to the hospital only to find out it was a false alarm, don’t feel bad. Consider it a practice run.

Our team of specialists is here to give you the information and comfort you need. Contact our office in Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY today to gain peace of mind during your pregnancy!

Medically Reviewed By

Jill Swenson, MD
Board Certified OB/GYN

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