Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as “practice contractions,” are sporadic uterine contractions that can occur during pregnancy. These contractions are named after John Braxton Hicks, the English physician who first described them in the 19th century. They are considered a normal part of pregnancy and typically start to occur in the second or third trimester. Braxton Hicks contractions are different from true labor contractions, as they are usually less intense and do not indicate that labor is imminent.
Here’s what Braxton Hicks contractions may feel like:
Tightening Sensation: Many women describe Braxton Hicks contractions as a tightening or squeezing sensation in the abdomen. It may feel as though your abdomen is briefly becoming hard or rock-like before returning to its normal state.
Mild Discomfort: Braxton Hicks contractions are usually painless or mildly uncomfortable. Some women may feel a slight ache or pressure in the lower abdomen, similar to menstrual cramps.
Irregular Pattern: These contractions are typically irregular in frequency and duration. They may last for only a few seconds or up to a minute, and they may occur sporadically throughout the day or week.
Absence of Lower Back Pain: Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions usually do not cause significant lower back pain or radiate to the pelvic area.
No Increase in Intensity: While Braxton Hicks contractions may become more noticeable as pregnancy progresses, they generally do not increase in intensity over time. They often remain relatively mild and do not become longer, stronger, or closer together.
Relief with Movement or Rest: Changing your position, taking a walk, or resting can often alleviate or lessen the discomfort associated with Braxton Hicks contractions.
It’s important to note that every woman’s experience with Braxton Hicks contractions can vary. If you have concerns about the contractions you are experiencing, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider. They can help differentiate between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor contractions and provide guidance based on your specific situation.