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A handy guide on the Braxton Hicks contractions.

It’s safe to assume that everyone has watched that one episode of Friends, where Rachel is pregnant and experiences something painful, gets alarmed and rushes to the hospital. The doctor there informs her that what she was going through was none other than the Braxton Hicks contractions and that they were a completely normal experience for pregnant women. Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions are also known as false labour because that’s exactly what they feel like going into labour.

What are braxton Hicks contractions?

During the second or third trimester of pregnancy, the uterus will oftentimes contract randomly. These random contractions of the uterine wall are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. They aren’t as intense as labour contractions or labour pains and tend to pop up and then go away completely. Many suggest that this is just your uterus preparing you for the labour pains to come.

When do they occur?

They happen almost spontaneously and could spring up anytime during your third trimester. You might also experience them during the second trimester, even though they are more common closer to your due date. After 20 weeks into pregnancy, you should start noticing these contractions.

What do they feel like?

The signs of Braxton Hicks contractions are very similar to those of labour. Since they are a contraction of the uterine wall, Braxton Hicks contractions feel like a cramping or tight squeezing of the area below your abdomen. This squeezing feeling could last anywhere between 30 seconds to 1 or 2 minutes. These contractions are described as uncomfortable but they can also be quite painful to some women. This is the best time to practice those deep breathing relaxation techniques that will come in handy during actual labour. After the contraction has passed, the uterus will relax and you feel back to normal. Braxton Hicks contractions occur sporadically and don’t get intense over time. They come and go randomly unlike labour contractions which follow a frequency and keep intensifying in pain. They can become quite painful for some women, but some just describe it as an uncomfortable sensation.

What causes Braxton Hicks contractions?

Many things can trigger a BH contraction. These tend to be normal everyday things. There are different signs and symptoms to note. Many women have gotten them in the middle of the night when the bladder tends to be full. Here are the most common causes: 

  • Dehydration
  • Being on a full bladder
  • Sexual intercourse/activity
  • A distended bladder
  • Increased physical activity of the mother or child

Can you treat BH contractions?

BH contractions are an absolutely normal part of pregnancy and childbirth, so no such treatment is required. However, there are many things you can do at home itself to help alleviate the pain or to make you feel better.

  • Practice deep breathing techniques. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth and hold the breath for at least 10 seconds.
  • Try to distract yourself until the pain passes.
  • Change your position if you have been sitting or standing in a certain way for too long.
  • Drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Drink warm tea or milk, something that helps to soothe you.
  • Taking a short bath could also help reduced pain and anxiety.

If any of these techniques don’t work, and if you notice that you get more than 4 contractions in one hour, then it's best to contact your doctor about what to do next!

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