Braxton Hicks are a tightening of the muscle in your uterus. They are the same muscles that contract during labour that help to push your baby down. Braxton Hicks may feel like a mild contraction but they are not strong enough to start labour or move your baby. Nor are they a sign of impending labour. They are also known as ‘false contractions’ or ‘practice contractions’.
The purpose of Braxton Hicks is to tone your uterus and help with blood circulation around the area. They can start very early in pregnancy (around seven weeks) but you are unlikely to feel them until much later. Some women do not feel them at all, some feel them as early as 15 weeks.
A Braxton Hicks contraction can last anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute. At it’s worst it may feel uncomfortable. Some women report no discomfort, but experience an intense feeling around the uterus when the muscles are taut.
• They serve no purpose in actual labour
• They are irregular, coming at different times and varying duration
• Usually stop if you change positions
• Occur once or twice in an hour, a few times a day
• Can be uncomfortable, but not painful.
• Not cease or ease if you change positions or walk around
• Come at regular intervals
• Last longer and get stronger over time
Braxton Hicks are a normal part of pregnancy and do not require treatment. If you are uncomfortable you can try to ease the discomfort by using a heat pack, having a bath, going for a walk, or having a massage. Make sure you drink plenty of water as dehydration can cause an increase in Braxton Hicks.
Braxton Hicks contractions don’t cause labour and are not a sign that labour is beginning.
If you feel that the contractions are more regular than once or twice an hour (a few times a day), you have pain or pressure in your back, increasing pressure in your pelvis or vagina, bleeding or are leaking fluid from your vagina, and are in the last stages of pregnancy you should call your doctor or midwife.