Understanding Braxton Hicks and Labor Signs

Understanding Braxton Hicks and Labor Signs

You’ve probably heard of “false labor” pains and the very thought is quite terrifying if you’re not sure how to tell if they’re false alarms or the real thing! For expectant mothers, understanding Braxton Hicks contractions and how to differentiate them from actual labor contractions is a key part of the pregnancy journey. 

We got you, Mama! In this blog post, we will discuss the common causes of Braxton Hicks, how to tell the difference between them and labor contractions, when to be concerned, and ways to manage and prevent them. 

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labor contractions, are a normal part of pregnancy. They’re defined as “intermittent and painless uterine contractions that occur during the second trimester and become more frequent towards the end of pregnancy.” They can range from mild to intense, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Although they may feel similar to true labor contractions, there is one key difference: Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause cervical dilation nor do they result in the baby being born.

These contractions are usually harmless and can occur more frequently when you’re dehydrated or experiencing stress. But why is it important for pregnant women to understand the difference? So, you can be prepared when it’s time for labor and delivery! Knowing how to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and labor contractions as well as when to be concerned can provide peace of mind during this time.

What do Braxton Hicks feel like?

  • It often feels like a tightening around your abdomen but should not be painful. 
  • They may come in waves that start off mild then become strong before ending suddenly after a few minutes or longer. 
  • This type of contraction does not have an even pattern like true labor does; instead, it is sporadic and irregular which often leads to confusion between the two types of contractions. 
  • You may even experience both at different times during your pregnancy; true labor will still start with milder Braxton Hicks-like sensations before progressing into full-on labor pains with regularity and intensity.
  • In order to differentiate between true labor vs Braxton Hicks, you should pay attention to any other signs you might experience along with the contraction such as backache or “show” (the thinning out of your cervix). 

When it comes to differentiating between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Firstly, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular and sporadic while labor contractions have a regular pattern. This means that if your contractions have a regular frequency or intensity, they are likely labor contractions. Secondly, Braxton Hicks contractions do not increase with physical activity, while labor contractions tend to become more intense with movement. This means that if you move around and the contraction becomes more intense or frequent, then it is likely a labor contraction. Thirdly, Braxton Hicks contractions are typically not painful whereas labor contractions usually start off feeling like mild menstrual cramps and gradually get more intense. Braxton Hicks Contractions last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes whereas labor contractions typically last around 45-60 seconds and have predictable timing.

When to be Concerned with Braxton Hicks

By now, you know that Braxton Hicks contractions usually aren’t painful. This means that severe cramping or pain in the abdomen, contractions that occur regularly and last for more than 30 seconds, contractions that are more frequent than every 10 minutes, and bleeding during pregnancy all require medical attention. 

Never hesitate to call your doctor or midwife immediately if:

  • If there is any kind of pain associated with contractions
  • If any type of vaginal discharge occurs along with the contractions 
  • You’re experiencing strong contractions every 5 minutes for an hour
  • Your contractions are hard to ignore
  • There’s a sudden change in your baby’s movement
  • Your baby is moving fewer than 10 movements in 2 hours 
  • Any signs of true labor before the 37th week

Ways to Manage and Prevent Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks contractions may be harmless and usually not painful, but it’s important to manage and prevent them by making lifestyle changes. The most important thing you must do is to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids, as dehydration can increase the chances of experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid activities that may cause the uterus to contract, such as caffeine consumption, smoking, intense sex or exercise, and alcohol consumption.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga can also be helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions. Massage or other forms of touch therapy may also provide relief from discomfort associated with contractions. If you’ve been quite active, take a breather! Your babybub maternity pillow can help you nap more quickly by letting you settle into a position you’re most comfortable with. 

Just like every pregnant woman, we’ve also experienced these false labor pains. When you know how to tell if you’re experiencing such, you’ll have more peace of mind and be better prepared for labor. False alarms are common during pregnancy. The exact causes of labor are unknown, and the process is different for every woman. The onset of labor can be difficult to recognize at times.

If you're not sure if you're in labor or if you're just having Braxton Hicks, don't wait to call your doctor. The onset of preterm labor is not always obvious. See a doctor if you start having labor pains before 37 weeks, especially if you also start having vaginal bleeding. And don't ever feel ashamed or frustrated if you end up at the hospital having a fake labor. It happens more frequently than you think. 

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to be a substitute for expert medical advice, diagnosis, or care. Always ask your doctor or another qualified health provider for advice if you have any concerns about a medical issue. Never dismiss or put off getting expert medical advice because of something you read on Bub's Blog.
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