Braxton hicks contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions during pregnancy explained, with advice on the why, when and how and differentiating them from pre term labour.
What are they?

Braxton Hicks are sporadic contractions of the uterus that occur throughout pregnancy. They can be felt as a tightening or hardening at the front of the abdomen that lasts for a minute or so and are generally noticed mid pregnancy although for many they begin at approximately 6 weeks. Unlike 'real' labour contractions, Braxton Hicks tend to be irregular in occurrence and duration and although they can increase in frequency and become uncomfortable during the final weeks of pregnancy they tend to disappear quite quickly.

Why do you get them?

In all honesty the real reason for Braxton Hicks contractions throughout pregnancy is unknown however many believe that they help to encourage the flow of blood to the placenta and to tone and soften the muscles of the uterus so as to support and protect the foetus. Over the final weeks of pregnancy Braxton Hicks contractions become more intense and they are often referred to as 'false labour' as they help with the effacement and dilation of the cervix in preparation for the birth.

How can you ease them?

Braxton Hicks tend to occur almost randomly however several triggers are known. Dehydration is thought to make Braxton Hicks more uncomfortable so making sure you are well hydrated should help. They are often triggered if you have been very active or have been on your feet for a long while so something as simple as sitting down and relaxing can help, many find a warm bath soothing too. Braxton Hicks can also be brought on when someone touches your stomach or if you have a very full bladder. Although they can be uncomfortable Braxton Hicks present you with the perfect opportunity to practice the breathing techniques and relaxation exercises you plan to use in labour so that you really are prepared when your baby decides to arrive.

When to see the Doctor

Braxton Hicks contractions themselves are harmless, however they can be confused for pre-term labour, a condition that would require immediate medical attention, so it is important to keep an eye on them just in case. If you haven't yet reached the 37th week of your pregnancy and you are experiencing more than 4 contractions an hour, if the contractions are becoming rhythmic or painful, if they are increasing in frequency, duration or intensity or if you are experiencing symptoms such as spotting, increased vaginal discharge, bleeding, back pain or the feeling of pressure on your pelvis then you should consult your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about braxton hicks contractions with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

im not sure if i have to worry but the past couple of days i have been in loads of pain in my lower belly its like a period pain but 10 times worse and they last for about 10 mins and im due on the 10th of october so im not sure if they are braxton hicks or wat ?
by sammiebbe 5th Oct 2010, 5:16pm
i dont no if its braxton hicks i am having as its my first pregnancy but i am 36 weeks and have felt nothing painful up until now. its not "tightening" its just like the baby is moving about really really hard and its like a shooting pain. it lasts for like a second then goes away .. my mum said its just twinges but i do not have a clue ?
by Leonna 18th May 2010, 5:13pm
hi there everone my name is longnails i am 32 weeks preg and i am getting worried abot them they start in my back and stop and then go arond to my belly bt only last a few mins what are they
by longnails 27th Jan 2010, 9:36am
im in my 34th week, and over the last 3 days i have had severe back pain, and constant pubic bone pain. Ive taken paracetamols and used a hot water this normal??? is this braxton hicks??? Is there Anyone out there can advise me... Thanks Ali :-)
by ali34 5th May 2009, 12:19pm
i had 3 supposedly very painful braxton hicks in a half hour with sudden onset of back pain too then after that both stopped.have seen midwife who can't pin point what they were either braxton hicks, urinary tract infection or bub pushing on a nerve? anyone had someting similar?
by bec5 9th Mar 2009, 9:29am