Braxton-Hicks contractions are contractions of the uterus that are infrquent, irregular, and generally painless. Almost all women will have Braxton-Hicks contractions. However, many women don’t ever notice having Braxton-Hicks contractions during their pregnancy. Braxton-Hicks contractions are named after John Braxton Hicks, the doctor who first described these types of contractions in 1872.
Braxton-Hicks contractions actually start around the sixth week of pregnancy. However, at this point, the contractions are so small and so mild that you are unable to feel them. Most women who will feel their Braxton-Hicks contractions will start to feel them some time in the middle of their pregnancy, during the second trimester.
Braxton-Hicks contractions can be confusing. They can feel similar to labor contractions, and can be difficult to tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and regular contractions, especially for the first-time mother. The key thing to keep in mind is that labor contractions are rhythmic and will increase in frequency and intensity. Braxton-Hicks contractions will 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.
If Braxton-Hicks contractions are uncomfortable for you, there are some things that you can do to get relief. A warm bath will often help your body to relax. A glass of water might help, too, because Braxton-Hicks contractions can be triggered by dehydration. You might also try using relaxation exercises, which won’t stop the contractions but may help you to better cope with them. Changing position, or changing the activity that you are involved in may also help to get rid of Braxton-Hicks contractions.