Many times, pregnant women will experience contractions that are similar to labor contractions, but are infrequent, irregular, and probably painless. These sorts of contractions are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions occur when the uterus contracts, but does not do so in any rhythmic way or growing in intensity. They get their name from the British physician who, in 1872, first described them: John Braxton Hicks.
Nearly all women will have Braxton-Hicks contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions can start as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. However, these contractions are extremely small and mild at this stage, and they cannot be felt until much later. Most of the time, if a woman is going to feel her Braxton-Hicks contractions, she will start to feel them sometime during the second trimester of pregnancy, right around halfway through the pregnancy.
Some women will not feel their Braxton-Hicks contractions at all, however. In fact, many women either don’t notice their Braxton-Hicks contractions or don’t realize that they are having Braxton-Hicks contractions. Having fewer Braxton-Hicks contractions or failing to notice Braxton-Hicks contractions does not mean that your pregnancy is in trouble, or that there is anything to worry about. There has been no research that suggests that Braxton-Hicks contractions indicate a healthy pregnancy, or that the lack of Braxton-Hicks contractions indicate a problem with the pregnancy.
To many wmen, especially those who are pregnant for the first time, Braxton-Hicks contractions can be confusing. They can feel almost like regular labor contractions, and can be difficult to tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and regular contractions. The main thing that distinguishes Braxton-Hicks contractions from labor contractions is that labor contractions are rhythmic and will increase in frequency and intensity. Braxton-Hicks contractions will not be rhythmic, and will also vary in both frequency and in intensity.
When you get to within two or three weeks of your due date, Braxton-Hicks contractions can seem to come closer together and almost regular. They can make you think that you are going into labor. There is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution; if you think you may be having contractions, you should contact your health care provider. Health care providers are used to Braxton-Hicks contractions, and don’t mind being called to help determine whether or not you are actually going into labor.