When you sense contractions, your first thought may be that you are going into labor. If you are closer to “term” (38 to 42 weeks gestation), this assumption may not be off the mark; however, Braxton Hicks contractions may be a more likely culprit.
You may become aware of Braxton Hicks contractions in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. During these contractions, the walls of the uterus tighten for 30 seconds to two minutes. Often described as irregular, Braxton Hicks contractions are very different from contractions associated with labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions can be caused by any number of triggers. Anything from dehydration to someone simply touching your belly may be enough to start the symptoms of Braxton Hicks. An active lifestyle, sexual intercourse and a full bladder may also be enough to trigger uncomfortable contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions are usually more uncomfortable than they are painful. You may feel a tightening or hardening of your belly (or uterus). Women often misinterpret these sensations as the baby moving or “balling up.” Touch your belly; you will notice that the entire front of the uterus is very firm to the touch.
Easing the Discomfort
Once Braxton Hicks contractions set in, you can do several things to make yourself more comfortable.
- Change positions or try lying down or going for a walk
- Drink plenty of water
- Deep breathing
- Relaxation techniques
If these suggestions do not help ease your pain, contact your physician or healthcare provider.
- Around the 28th week of your pregnancy, you may be visiting your physician more often. For roughly the next eight weeks, your physician may want to see you every couple of weeks.
- Although Braxton Hicks contractions are quite common, the cause for them is still relatively unknown. Physicians and other professionals have speculated that these contractions help prepare the uterine muscles for actual labor.