What You Should Know About Braxton Hicks

As you get further along in your pregnancy your doctor might want to strap a fetal monitor on you every 2-4 weeks (usually beginning around 28 weeks). This monitor, which involves putting a strap around your belly for about 20 minutes, checks to make sure you’re not having any contractions. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t differentiate between “real” contractions and Braxton Hicks. It can be frightening if you see spikes on the monitoring sheet throughout the 20 minutes – but don’t panic! Your doctor will likely do a vaginal ultrasound afterwards and in most cases they will confirm that the cervix is still closed and conclude that you were simply experiencing Braxton Hicks.

What exactly are Braxton Hicks?

Braxton Hicks are”false” contractions that many pregnant women have before real labour begins. They can start happening as early as 20 weeks and don’t mean that your body is anywhere close to actually going into labour. They’re thought to be the body’s way of getting ready for labour. It’s also important to note that while they’re called contractions, most women don’t find them painful. They feel like a tightening of the stomach (your belly will likely become very hard).

Braxton Hicks or Labor?

As you get closer to 40 weeks you might start to wonder if you’re having Braxton Hicks or real labour, especially because the “contractions” might get more frequent. Key things to remember about Braxton Hicks are that, besides not being painful, they don’t follow a regular pattern, don’t last longer as they go on or get stronger (when you’re in real labour contractions come at regular intervals and last about 30 to 70 seconds, getting stronger and closer together as time goes on), are felt only in your belly and they come and go (in real labour, the contradiction don’t stop just because you change positions).

Dehydration is a common cause for Braxton Hicks, so if you’re unsure if that’s what’s going on – drink some water. Changing positions may help as well.

Bottom line: if you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks – don’t stress! They’re totally normal.

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