- False labor pains are rhythmic and painless uterine contractions that can occur during pregnancy.
- They are more common in the second and third trimesters.
- Braxton Hicks contractions are characterized by a sensation of tightness or pressure in the uterus.
- They are usually irregular, they do not increase in intensity, do not cause cervical dilation, and can be felt throughout the abdomen.
During pregnancy, women experience a bunch of changes in their bodies, including uterine contractions. Two commonly used terms are “false labor pains” and “Braxton Hicks contractions”. But, what do Braxton Hicks feel like and when do they start?
What are false labor pains?
Also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, named after the British physician John Braxton Hicks who first described them in 1872, false labor pains are rhythmic and painless uterine contractions that can occur during pregnancy. These contractions are a natural preparation of the body for labor. They help strengthen the uterus and increase its elasticity, while improving blood flow to the placenta, which is important for supplying oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
When do Braxton Hicks start and what do they feel like?
Braxton Hicks contractions can occur at any time during pregnancy, but they are more common in the second and third trimesters. They can be triggered by physical activity, sexual intercourse, dehydration, certain positions, contact or tactile stimulation of the mother’s abdomen or nipples, or even intense emotions.
Braxton Hicks contractions are characterized by a sensation of tightness or pressure in the uterus. The abdomen becomes tense and then relaxes. They can last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, with irregular intervals. Some women may only feel a few contractions per day, while others may experience several in an hour.
What are the differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions?
It’s important to be able to tell Braxton Hicks contractions apart from labor contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular, they do not increase in intensity, do not cause cervical dilation, and can be felt throughout the abdomen. They can be uncomfortable but do not cause intense pain.
On the other hand, labor contractions have a regular pattern, they can last from 30 to 90 seconds, increase in intensity, and occur at regular intervals of about 5 minutes. Labor contractions are typically felt in the back and lower abdomen and may be accompanied by other signs, such as the rupture of the amniotic sac and cervical dilation.
We always recommend contacting your doctor if you have concerns or doubts regarding contractions. Your doctor can provide specific guidance based on your individual situation.
How to relieve the discomfort of false labor pains?
Some strategies to relieve the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions include:
- Changing position
- Resting and relaxing
- Practicing some breathing exercises
- Drinking water to stay hydrated
- Taking a warm bath
Remember that during pregnancy, it‘s crucial to avoid self-medication, so always consult your gynecologist before taking any medication.
When should I be concerned about Braxton Hicks contractions?
Braxton Hicks are normal and expected during pregnancy, but in some cases, they can be more intense and frequent, which might make you feel concerned.
If the contractions become very frequent, painful, and regular, it is important to contact your doctor for evaluation. Also, if you experience other symptoms such as severe back pain, vaginal bleeding, or reduced baby movements, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.