This post was written by Labor & Delivery Nurse, Liesel Teen, also known as @mommy.labornurse on Instagram. Leisel is a member of the Juna Expert Advisory Board and monthly contributor to the Juna Blog. 

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Braxton hicks contractions are very common in pregnancy and are frequently referred to as “practice” contractions. They are named after a 19th century obstetrician, John Braxton Hicks, who made a ton of advances in the field of obstetrics! 

Braxton hicks are different from labor contractions in that they usually aren’t painful, whereas labor contractions are most definitely painful! Braxton hicks do not cause cervical dilation, though some believe they help to soften the cervix. They last for 30-60 seconds (though some can last for up to 2 minutes) and they tend to be irregular and infrequent. Braxton hicks also do not increase in intensity or frequency. Most of the time they will start to taper off and then disappear altogether! Labor contractions, on the other hand, usually last 60-90 seconds and once in active labor, will follow a regular pattern (i.e. coming every 5-7 minutes). Labor contractions will increase in frequency and intensity as labor progresses. 

pregnant women braxton hicks contractions

What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

So what do braxton hicks contractions feel like?! Most pregnant mamas would describe them as a tightening in your abdomen, that is not painful but can be slightly uncomfortable. Your belly gets firm, and you may experience more lower abdominal/pelvic pressure during the braxton hicks contraction. Some women don’t notice they are having them, while others do feel pain with them. Most describe this pain as lower abdominal pain, similar to a menstrual cramp. This pain should not be excruciating – if it is, reach out to your provider!

When Should I Expect To Feel A Braxton Hicks Contraction?

Braxton hicks contractions typically start in the third trimester, but some women report them as early as the second trimester. As you get further in your pregnancy, they usually increase in frequency and are just a natural part of your body preparing for labor. However, there are some things that cause increased uterine irritability, which can lead to an increased frequency or intensity of braxton hicks. Dehydration, increased activity, sex, and a full bladder are just a few of these.  

What Can I Do If My Contractions Are Uncomfortable?

If you are having braxton hicks contractions and they are bothersome, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the discomfort. 

  • – First, drink water! Your uterus is a big muscle, and when your muscles are dehydrated they start to contract.

  • – Next, empty your bladder. A full bladder can press up against your uterus and make it more irritated.

  • – A warm bath can help to relax your body and ease up these contractions too.

  • – Finally, change your position. Sometimes just moving from a standing to sitting position can help them dissipate.

Some like to practice the breathing techniques they have learned in their birthing classes while having braxton hicks, too! 

Since your body is practicing for the big day, you should too!