What do Braxton Hicks feel like?
How do Braxton Hicks contractions differ from true labor contractions?
Knowing how to identify Braxton Hicks will help you relax during your pregnancy and be more prepared when baby’s birth day finally arrives.
What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions are “practice contractions” that tone the uterus in preparation for real labor. They don’t cause any changes to the cervix however, so they won’t cause premature labor and are totally normal and safe.
In fact it’s actually a good thing if you’re having them, as it means your uterus is strong and practicing hard.
Some women never notice Braxton Hicks contractions, particularly in their first pregnancy, so don’t be worried if you don’t feel them.
Braxton Hicks occur randomly, but may also be caused by strenuous exercise, sex, orgasm, and dehydration.
What do Braxton Hicks feel like?
Braxton Hicks contractions start out as mild tightening in the front of the uterus. They are felt higher in the stomach in contrast to something like menstrual cramps.
Though they may be noticeable as early as week 20, typically moms don’t notice these practice contractions until much later in their pregnancy, if at all.
Some women notice a contorted belly shape during a Braxton Hicks contraction. Others have noticed a tightening, and some difficulty breathing during a BH contraction.
Though some women feel nothing during Braxton Hicks contractions, others notice a tightening feeling and some even experience mild discomfort or even pain.
However, there is usually no low or deep pelvic aching or pain like in true labor and with menstrual cramps. If there is low pain associated with Braxton Hicks, it is not likely to wrap around the body like true labor contractions do.
In summary, Braxton Hicks feel like:
- a tightening or hardening of uterus
- are usually felt “high” versus low in pelvis
- not long-lasting… usually for 20 minutes to one hour
- go away on their own and don’t escalate
- can decrease in intensity with rest, fluids or time
How are Braxton Hicks contractions different from true labor?
Braxton hicks contractions are irregular, infrequent, unpredictable, and not rhythmic, while real labor contractions are all of these things.
Braxton hicks contractions will slow down and disappear, especially with drinking water, changing position and movement. True labor contractions won’t go away, will intensify in strength, and will become longer and closer together.
Longer, stronger, and closer together usually suggests actual labor contractions.
What to do if you’re having Braxton Hicks contractions
Practice – Just as your body is practicing for labor, you can use this time to practice tuning into your body, breathing, relaxing, and following the contraction from start to finish.
Walk – Sometimes gentle movement can stop Braxton Hicks contractions. If they don’t stop, they may be real labor contractions!
Drink water – Dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks, so getting plenty of fluids can ease the symptoms.
Rest – Strenuous exercise can cause Braxton Hicks as well. You don’t need to stop your regular activity, and exercise is still good for you, but you may want to choose less intense exercise like walking or swimming versus running.
Relax – Take a bath, or listen to calming music to reduce stress. Stress is not good for you or baby, so finding time to wind down is great for both of you and can help alleviate the discomfort of Braxton Hicks.
Magnesium – Many people are magnesium deficient, and during pregnancy your body needs much more than usual. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle spasms, so keeping your magnesium level healthy may help reduce Braxton Hicks contractions discomfort. Magnesium oil is the easiest way to get supplemental magnesium.
My experience with Braxton Hicks
In my first pregnancy, I never felt them (and honestly wonder if I ever had them!). My labor was long and hard, with my contractions not being very effective.
With my second pregnancy, I wasn’t sure if I would know what Braxton Hicks feel like. But, then I got them :). I felt them as early as 20 weeks. They had the classic “tightening” sensation and were quite high in my belly area (in the center, just under rib cage). They would last half hour or so and then go away.
I was nervous feeling them because it was a new sensation and I didn’t want to be in labor! However, they always passed and would reduce in intensity if I drank some water and sat down.
I also religiously drank 2 cups of red raspberry leaf tea with my second pregnancy so believe my uterus was “getting in shape” for the big day. This tea is known to “tone” the uterus, so maybe that’s why I felt my Braxton Hicks more. I went on to have a wonderful, “supernatural” and nearly painless birth!
How about you?
Did you have Braxton Hicks with your pregnancy? What did they feel like to you?