Braxton-Hicks Contractions

  • Known as false labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions may be the first contractions you feel when you are pregnant.
  • They can happen at any time starting in the 20th week
  • You can sometimes use your hand to feel your stomach muscles tighten and let go, get hard, then soft again
  • This is not like feeling the baby move, which you may notice a little before 20 weeks
  • For some women, these contractions are painless
  • Other women feel a short but sharp burst of pain
  • Think of these as warm-up exercises for your womb

Braxton-Hicks contractions versus real labor

It's easy to think Braxton-Hicks contractions are real labor . Here are the four main differences:

  • Timing
    • Braxton-Hicks contractions tend not to have a pattern, but real labor contractions do
    • Keep track of your contractions for an hour to help you decide if it's real labor
    • Measure from the start of one contraction to the start of the next
    • If the contractions are every five to 10 minutes, it's time to call your doctor
  • Length of Braxton-Hicks contractions:
    • Can be short or long
    • May vary in strength
    • Might feel like your belly is tightening into a hard ball
    • You might barely notice the next one
    • Real labor contractions
    • Do not vary in strength
    • Tend to last at least 30 seconds at first
    • Then get longer each time
  • Control
    • Braxton-Hicks contractions often stop or become less painful if you move from sitting to standing or from standing to lying down
    • If it's real labor, the contractions will carry on no matter what you do
  • Location
    • Painful contractions only at the front of your belly most often mean false labor
    • True labor pain most often starts in the back and moves toward the front
    • If you aren't sure whether you are going through false or true labor, call your doctor

Anticipating false alarms

  • It's not always easy to decide if your pain is from real labor or not
  • The key is not to be embarrassed: get your contractions checked out
  • It's much better to be safe than sorry, and it doesn't take much for your doctor to check and tell you what's really going on

[references] Copyright © 2010 LimeHealth


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