Braxton Hicks contractions were first described by an English doctor named John Braxton Hicks in 1872. They are contractions that happen in the uterus from as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. You won’t be able to feel them that early but your uterus has already begun what is called Braxton Hicks contractions, that are practice for the real thing when the onset of labor occurs. You may be able to feel them late in your second trimester and then more as the third trimester progresses.
If there is pain with Braxton Hicks contractions, it is normally located in the front pelvic area and in the front of the abdomen. With true labor the pain from contractions will start low in the back and then move to the front of the abdomen.
Some women go all the way through their pregnancy and never even feel a Braxton Hicks contraction while other women often mistake these contractions for the real thing a few times before actually going into labor. A good rule to follow about knowing the difference between Braxton Hicks and real contractions is that if they don’t continually increase in strength and become closer together, they are generally nothing to worry about. However, if you are under 37 weeks and you have 4 or more contractions in one hour it’s best not to try and diagnose it yourself, it’s just not worth the risk. Go ahead and call your doctor about it so that you can be checked for premature labor symptoms by a professional.
Over the years, people have often referred to Braxton Hicks contractions as false labor. The reason people call it false labor is because the contractions never actually result in labor. The Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause the cervix to dilate because they really aren’t strong enough. They may help in the third trimester to “ripen” the cervix by slowly causing it to efface or thin out which may cause a small bit of dilation.
If you are looking for some relief from your Braxton Hicks contractions, you can always try a hot bath. A hot bath will allow the whole body to relax and will give you a few moments of comfort. Many times just simply resting will cause the Braxton Hicks contractions to subside.
Dehydration can be one of the reasons that you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. Drink a few tall glasses of water and see if that provides you with some relief.
If nothing works to relieve the discomfort caused by Braxton Hicks contractions, practice your breathing techniques. Slow, deep breathing will help you focus on something else and allow you to deal with the pain you are experiencing. This is a great time to practice the strategies for pain management you learned if you have already taken a childbirth class.
Be sure to call your doctor right away if you aren’t past the 37 week mark and you have other signs of labor accompanied by what you think are Braxton Hicks contractions. Any other sign of labor including spotting should be looked at immediately by a professional.