Braxton Hicks Contractions

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are sometimes called “practice contractions” and can occur at any time during pregnancy, but most commonly in the last trimester. These uterine contractions are usually mild, sporadic and are completely harmless to both the mother and the baby.

It’s not known what causes Braxton Hicks contractions to occur. Some medical professionals think that it helps increase blood flow to the placenta, or help prepare the uterus for giving birth. They may happen more often after physical activity or after sex.

Some women refer that these practice contractions feel like mildly intense menstrual cramps. In comparison, true labor and the contractions that come with it increase in intensity and start to happen more frequently over time. Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause labor and do not pen the cervix.

What are the Symptoms of Braxton Hicks Contractions?

When you feel a few uterine contractions during pregnancy that do not escalate, they are usually Braxton Hicks contractions. They may feel like menstrual cramps and are usually more uncomfortable than painful.

Some women may have Braxton Hicks contractions that can’t be detected. You may be able to see or feel your abdomen contract without a cramping sensation.

Braxton Hicks Contractions Causes

Braxton Hicks Contractions occur when a pregnant woman nearing the end of her pregnancy begins experiencing false labor pains. Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing a mother for labor and the delivery of her child. Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular and they can also mimic labor by increasing in strength and frequency as you get further into your pregnancy.

Your pregnancy hormones are most likely responsible for your Braxton Hicks contractions. They can start at any time after week 20 of your pregnancy. However, they may not be noticeable until further along in your pregnancy (probably around 30-32 weeks). First time expectant mothers usually don’t notice the pain as much as women who have experienced childbirth before.

Some doctors believe that Braxton Hicks contractions help to tone the uterine muscle and promote blood flow to the placenta.

How is Braxton Hicks Contractions Treated?

Since Braxton Hicks contractions are common and even normal in pregnancy, there is little cause for concern. Changing position or drinking water can usually stop them. If they continue, deep breathing or eating a meal may help.

Any time contractions become regular or begin to increase in intensity, you should consult your doctor.

Braxton Hicks Contractions Prevention

Braxton Hicks contractions cannot be prevented, however, there are some things you can do to alleviate the pain of experiencing them and to prevent any complications. Whenever you feel like the pain might be too much to bear, try drinking some water, because oftentimes Braxton hicks contractions can be caused by dehydration. Also, if you’re sitting or lying down, try changing to a new position. You can try to get up and walk around as well. It all depends on what makes you feel the most comfortable.

Try some deep breathing if you can’t seem to get the pain to subside. This can help you (both now and during actual labor) to cope with the pain. If you start to notice anything unusual before 37 weeks, like vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, increased vaginal discharge, lower back pain, or any type of watery discharge, call your health care provider immediately, as these may be signs of trouble. Also, look out for regular contractions or more pressure in the pelvic area.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 20, 2017