Why Do Braxton Hicks Happen And Are They Painful?
Braxton Hicks is the name given to describe when the womb contracts and tightens.
While it contracts and tightens, it goes from being hard to touch to being soft again once it has relaxed. Many women experience Braxton Hicks from about twenty weeks onwards but many do not experience them at all.
It is important to remember that Braxton Hicks are not contractions. The main difference between Braxton Hicks and contractions is the fact that Braxton Hicks are not regular in their pattern.
They usually come along in short bursts of 20-30 seconds and cause just mild discomfort for some women.
Labour contractions usually last up to about one minute and develop a pattern which shows them to become closer and closer together. They are also usually painful.
If you are experiencing Braxton Hicks it is not a sign that the body is preparing for labour and that it is imminent.
The reason why Braxton Hicks occur is not yet completely known. Some doctors believe that it is the result of a very active baby while others believe that it is the pregnant bodies way of reacting to stimuli such as loud noise or someone touching your bump. Many women also note that Braxton Hicks occur after they have had sexual intercourse.
Braxton Hicks vary in intensity from person to person. For some women, they may be more uncomfortable than for others. It can help to change position, do some gentle exercise (such as walking) or have something to eat or drink. Warm water is also known to relieve the discomfort so a warm shower or bath can be really effective too.
Although Braxton Hicks are not deemed to be connected to labour it is important to contact your midwife or care team if the tightenings persist, become closer together or start to cause intense pain. If you notice anything unusual with your baby’s movement or you feel “off” you should bring it to their attention to rule out any issues.
You should also contact your care team if you suspect your waters have started to leak or if you notice a bloody discharge as this can be a sign that your body is preparing for labour.
Braxton Hicks are not dangerous or harmful to you or your growing baby. They may come and go without you noticing or they may feel similar to a very mild menstrual cramp. You can be sure that your baby is safe and happy in your uterus completely unharmed by the Braxton Hicks.
If you find Braxton Hicks to be uncomfortable this could be a good opportunity to practice your breathing techniques. Finding a way to calm your body and mind and focus on your breath will help you practice these strategies for the real contractions and birth in a couple of weeks.
Breathing is one of the most effective tools when it comes to the intensity of labour and many women will rate Braxton Hicks as being intense rather than painful.
As your labour progresses it can be difficult to identify Braxton Hicks from the early signs of labour. If you are before 37 weeks pregnant it is a good idea to notify someone if you are concerned about pre-term labour.
If you are post 37 weeks pregnant possible early signs of labour can simply be monitored at home until you feel ready and in need of hospital care.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.