What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are common in the 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and are sometimes referred to as false labor pains. The contractions are generally mild and irregular, and typically occur in the afternoon or evening, especially after exercise or sex. The frequency and intensity of the contractions may escalate as you get closer to your due date.
Braxton Hicks contractions may feel uncomfortable, like a tightening and releasing in the abdomen that come and go. Some women compare the contractions to menstrual cramps. Although the contractions cause mild discomfort, they do not open the cervix. Symptoms include:
- Usually not painful
- Irregular contractions, some women describe as the baby "balling up"
- Contractions do not get stronger over time
- Contractions do not get closer together
- Will not last longer as they go on
- May stop when you change positions or stop activity
- Felt only in your abdomen
- Usually fade out or disappear
What Causes Braxton Hicks Contractions
The specific cause for Braxton Hicks contractions remains unknown. There do seem to be universal triggers for the contractions. Researchers have also speculated that the contractions can happen when there’s been stress to the womb and that the contractions increase blood flow to the placenta and increase oxygen to the baby. Some universal triggers include:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Physical activity
- Full bladder
Once you have confirmed Braxton Hicks contractions with your doctor, there are a few at-home treatments you may want to try. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to rest and take things easy. A few at-home treatments include:
- Hydrate appropriately
- Changing your position
- Empty your bladder
- Lay on your left side
If these treatments don’t ease the contractions, consult with your doctor to find other possible treatments and to rule out irritable uterus or any other issue. Before 37 weeks gestation, if you have contractions closer than every ten minutes, suspect that your water has broken, bleeding like a period, changes in your vaginal discharge, low constant backache, call your obstetrician immediately. You may be experiencing preterm labor.
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