Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions

What Is Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Frequent Braxton Hicks contractions: First-time mothers-to-be have a lot of questions and anxieties. So do second-time and more experienced moms. This is because each pregnancy is different. The symptoms, cravings, and body changes are new and different every time.

The term “Braxton Hicks contractions” may be completely new to you or you may be well-acquainted with what it feels like. Whatever category you fall into, let's explore what it is and what it means when these “false labor” contractions start happening more frequently.

What Is Braxton Hicks?

The term “Braxton Hicks” was coined by John Braxton Hicks, a doctor who pioneered research into this occurrence back in 1872. For pregnant women, Braxton Hicks contractions can happen any time after six weeks of gestation. Unlike real labor, the intensity of cramps doesn't progress with time and it is seen as the body's natural response to prepping the uterus and cervix for live birth.

What's the Purpose of Braxton Hicks Anyway?

Braxton Hicks contractions shouldn't be accompanied by significant pain, as is the case with real labor. Some women report that it feels more like a menstrual cramp.

This isn't a case of no-pain, no-gain, however.

Medical scholars think that these types of prodromal labor or practice contractions, as they are alternatively known, are useful for:

  • Training the uterine muscles for real labor
  • Accelerating blood flow to the placenta
  • Softening the cervix toward the end of pregnancy

Other Reasons for Braxton Hicks Contractions

Despite these practical uses, sometimes Braxton Hicks is induced for no good reason. These include:

  • Extensive physical activity
  • An energetic baby
  • Extreme thirst
  • Sex
  • A filled bladder

The Frequency of Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks can also mimic real labor contractions. That is, it can happen in every five to ten-minute intervals.

Unlike real labor, however, which takes place over hours or days, Braxton Hicks contractions can transpire over the course of weeks.

When To Seek Medical Help

Braxton Hicks are usually sporadic in nature and will subside over time. In some instances, though, women may write off real labor as a harmless Braxton Hicks episode.

Medical experts, however, caution moms-to-be to seek medical help at the nearest birthing or emergency center should any of the following occur:

  • Contractions become more intense
  • Contractions do not stop
  • Contractions are excruciating
  • Lower back pain occurs
  • You notice vaginal leaks
  • You feel pressure in the lower pelvic area

Pay Attention to the Timeline and Frequency of Braxton Hicks

The urgency to get medical help cannot be overstated in these circumstances, especially for pregnant mothers who haven't met the full-term definition of 37 weeks gestation.

Anytime a baby is born before this period, he or she is considered a “preemie” and is at increased risk of complications. A well-equipped hospital unit usually has the tools and staff to act quickly to either help stop labor or take measures to help premature infants survive.

After the 37th week of gestation, Braxton Hicks may become more frequent than previously. In a lot of these cases, the “practice session” accelerates real labor contractions. In this event, it's time to seek medical help.

How Health Care Workers Check for Braxton Hicks

If you are concerned about recurring or frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, call your gynecologist or head to the nearest hospital.

Health care staff trained in maternity care will use a monitor to gauge if you're actually experiencing real labor. Since Braxton Hicks contractions are relatively weak, they can't be detected on the monitor. As an extra measure of caution, the nurse will do a cervix check to determine if any dilation has occurred.

How To Stop Braxton Hicks Contractions

Some women who have regular Braxton Hicks swear by shifting their positions or doing light exercises to alleviate the discomfort. One good suggestion by medical experts is to always stay hydrated, as extreme thirst can set off many false alarms during pregnancy.

If you feel anxious, try going for a walk, taking in some fresh air, and breathing slowly and deeply. A warm bath or shower can also help ease the stress away.

Think of Braxton Hicks as a practice session for the final event. Chances are when real labor begins, you'll instinctively know it's happening. Armed with this newfound knowledge, expecting moms can make calculated decisions during the course of the pregnancy.

Last Reviewed:
July 02, 2017
Last Updated:
October 16, 2017
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