Braxton Hicks Contractions
Pregnancy tends to come with a host of different discomforts, ranging from morning sickness, to bladder problems, to nosebleeds. As your pregnancy progresses, you may begin to notice a tightness in your uterus. This tightness is actually referred to as a Braxton Hicks contraction, and it is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. Read on to find out more about Braxton Hicks contractions and how to tell them apart from the real signs of labor.
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
The majority of women experience frequent Braxton Hicks contractions during the different stages of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are actually a tightening in the muscles of the uterus. Your brain sends your body signals to prepare for labor by contracting the uterine muscles, resulting in these uncomfortable contractions. Usually lasting between 1 and 2 minutes, Braxton Hicks contractions can occur
throughout your pregnancy, strengthening in the last months before delivery.
Braxton Hicks contractions are named after the scientist who first discovered them in 1872. Thanks to him, we now know why women feel this strange tightening in their abdomens during pregnancy. The discovery of Braxton Hicks contractions has helped to clear up the mystery of false labor and the whole labor process.
Why do Braxton Hicks Contractions Occur?
The contractions that you experience throughout your pregnancy aren’t just there to annoy you – they actually do have a purpose. Braxton Hicks contractions seem to be a part of the stages of pregnancy development. It is thought that Braxton Hicks contractions help your body to prepare for actual labor. They are commonly called "practice contractions" as they help your uterus prepare for the contractions it will experience during labor. Without Braxton Hicks contractions, your labor contractions would be longer, more painful, and less effective at pushing your baby out. Braxton Hicks contractions felt later in pregnancy also help to soften the cervix.
When do Braxton Hicks Contractions Begin?
Although Braxton Hicks contractions can begin as early as a couple of months into the first trimester of pregnancy, they usually begin around the 28th week of pregnancy. If you have already given birth to a child before, you may notice that your Braxton Hicks contractions begin earlier than usual and are more intense.
Braxton Hicks contractions are most common in the third trimester. Unfortunately, Braxton Hicks contractions typically last until the baby is delivered, and can get very uncomfortable as your due date nears.
What do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?
Some women do not feel much discomfort with their contractions, while others definitely feel stronger Braxton Hicks contractions. Usually, Braxton Hicks contractions are painless, causing only minor discomfort and annoyance. As you begin to get closer to your due date though, you may notice that your Braxton Hicks contractions are becoming stronger.
Braxton Hicks contractions tend to be infrequent and irregular, and can sometimes pop up out of nowhere. They usually don’t last long, though it depends on your particular pregnancy; some women have Braxton Hicks contractions that can last as long as 5 minutes.
When you experience a Braxton Hicks contraction, you might be able to feel the muscles in your uterus contracting. It will cause your stomach to become rigid and hard, which you will be able to feel if you touch your belly. This rigidity typically lasts only for a few minutes. You may also feel moderate pain in the front of your abdomen which will then radiate down your body.
Common Braxton Hicks Triggers
Many women notice that certain things trigger their Braxton Hicks contractions. Common triggers include:
- baby moving inside your body
- heavy exertion or exercise, especially carrying things
- touching your abdomen
- sexual intercourse
Learn more about how to tell the difference between braxton hicks contractions and real labor and also how to stay comfortable while experiencing braxton hicks contractions.
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