What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

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.

Read on to find out: 

  • What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
  • What week do Braxton Hicks start?
  • What do Braxton Hicks feel like?
  • How long do Braxton Hicks contractions last?
  • What causes Braxton Hicks?
  • What’s the difference between Braxton Hicks and “real” contractions?
  • Are Braxton Hicks harmful to the baby?
  • What can you do to relieve Braxton Hicks contractions?

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 Week Do Braxton Hicks Start?

Braxton Hicks contractions can start as early as week six, but most moms don’t notice these practice contractions until much later in pregnancy, around week 20. Some moms—especially first time moms—never notice Braxton Hicks at all! (source)

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.

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.

How Long Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Last?

These mild uterine contractions are irregular and last for about 30 seconds at a time. Most women won’t experience more than 1-2 per hour a few times each day. Later in pregnancy, the frequency may increase.

How Do You Know if You’re Having Braxton Hicks?

If you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, you may notice:

  • a tightening or hardening of the uterus
  • light, dull cramping higher in your abdomen
  • quick contractions, not longer than 30 seconds at a time, that don’t escalate
  • any pain decreases in intensity with rest, fluids, or time

What Causes Braxton Hicks Contractions?

In many cases, Braxton Hicks contractions are simply just another symptom of pregnancy, but there are some things that can increase the likelihood of experiencing Braxton Hicks:

  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) 
  • Strenuous Exercise

Can You Feel Braxton Hicks Contractions in Your Back?

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.

How Can I Tell Braxton Hicks From Real Contractions?

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.

Are Braxton Hicks Contractions Harmful to the Baby?

As noted, Braxton Hicks contractions are your body’s natural way of practicing for the big day. Even women who experience frequent Braxton Hicks contractions do not need to worry—these contractions are not harmful to mama or baby.

If you’re uncomfortable, see below for some ideas to relieve some of the discomfort. And always call your doctor if you are concerned or experience what you think are real 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.

What Can You Do to Relieve Braxton Hicks?

  • 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. Pregnant mamas should drink at least 96 ounces of water per day. Be especially vigilant about water consumption on particularly hot days. (source)
  • 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?

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  1. Finally realized that what I thought was baby fist pumping was BH! They are rhythmic, tightening of the uterus low in the pelvis, like the gentle contraction of your womb after an orgasm. Obviously with the varied descriptions, different people feel them different ways, but just had to share the “orgasm” angle cause it’s seriously the most fitting description for me personally.

  2. I am 15 weeks pregnant and just started feeling BH contractions. I had them a lot during the 3rd tri with my first so I know what I’m feeling. The tightening is lower but I think that’s because my uterus is still below my belly button. I have been drinking fluids like crazy the past 24 hrs and they’re still pretty frequent, so I’m going to try magnesium. How many sprays of the oil do you recommend per day, and how many times per day should I spray? Also, where do you spray it?

  3. Im 26 weeks n im starting to feel them now.

  4. I’m only 16 weeks. I’m almost positive the Extreme discomfort I am having is BH. Should I be concerned that it’s this early? No spotting but it comes about every 20 minutes and last for about 5 minutes.

    • Typically BH contractions are your body’s way of telling you to slow down or to hydrate. As always, contact your provider with any questions or concerns.

  5. I’m at 31 weeks and started feeling BH around 23 weeks. Honestly at first I thought I just needed to go to the bathroom. But my mom told me it sounded like BH and my Dr said the same thing. I started keeping track of them and noticed that mine are usually triggered when I go out side. I live in phoenix and it’s summer so it’s over 100 degrees here even at night. The sudden change in temp and the walking is what does it to me. So I just stop and sit or get out of the heat and they stop.

  6. Can someone experience Braxton Hicks at 34 weeks?Coz am having this pain on my abdomen feels like period pains it comes an go

  7. I had a more severe form of Braxton hicks called irritable uterus. This version can lead to preterm labor if not manafed carefully. I ended up on partial bedrest and did make it to 37.5 weeks at delivery but it’s important to check with your doctor if you have them with any regularity. Mine were happening around the clock.

    • I’ve been experiencing the same. I actually ended up in L&D a few days ago wondering if I was in true labor. My contractions had been coming and going most of the afternoon and were very strong. When I got to the hospital they were 2-4 minutes apart and some were somewhat painful like true contractions. When they checked me my cervix was completely normal. I was instructed to go home, take a warm bath, and go to bed. Next morning I was fine. Thankfully I’m 38 weeks today and if I had gone into labor everything would’ve been OK.

  8. So encouraged reading this! I’m 20 weeks with my first and was wondering if it was BH that I’ve been feeling. I feel the tightening and my belly will go completely lop sided. Good to know that water & magnesium help (and that they aren’t a bad thing!!). Thanks so much! I’m soooo thankful I found your website ?

  9. When is a good time to start drinking the raspberry leaf tea? I am 32 weeks, should I wait until closer to my due date?

    • I started drinking it towards the end of the first trimester. Started with 16oz per day (my travel mug) and plan to up to 32oz per day in the third trimester after reading about it on this site. <3

  10. I have had regular braxton hicks with all three of my pregnancies. This pregnancy they have been especially pain, occurring throughout the day and night from about 26 weeks. I started taking Ease Magnesium oil a few weeks ago and I’ve noticed a dramatic difference. The magnesium hasn’t lessened the number of braxton hicks, but they are far less intense and my back muscles are less sore. I can’t express how grateful I felt to not wake up with a stiff and sore body!

  11. I had so many Braxton Hicks contractions, and they increased in intensity with each pregnancy. By my third, I noticed them around 15 weeks. They always made me nervous even though they do feel different than real contractions so I should have learned the difference. I’m glad to have read your article, with my next I will be assured that they are actually a good thing.

  12. Yes, totally felt them with my second pregnancy! Drank raspberry leaf tea, walked every night and listened to my birth affirmations every day after week 37 since I did not want to be induced. I was preparing for an unmedicated natural birth and it happened! I arrived to the hospital 7 cm dilated and could not believe it since I was breathing calmly through each one of them and the contractions were not as intense were I could not overcome them. I had an amazing birthing experience going med free, had such an oxytocin rush it was unbelievable I had just given birth and felt great. My baby was very alert and able to nurse him right away. Preparation and education is key, also being fearless of childbirth since it totally is a mind-body-spirit experience ♡

    • Neni,
      Your comments were so very helpful to me, as my first labor (9 years ago) lasted 2 days and ended in an emergency C-section, after trying to give birth naturally at a birthing center (water had been broken for over 18 hrs. and the contractions stalled…I was swollen and not progressing…babe’s shoulders would not fit through birth canal….so had to have the C-section with pitocin and an epidural). This time around, I’m trying for VBAC and have the eduction of a TCM doctor, so I am hoping by being more physically, spiritually and emotionally prepared, I can have a labor experience like yours with my 2nd babe. This time around, I am also having a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions and the babe is VERY active! I take this as a good sign and pray for a shorter, natural labor. Thank you for the inspiration! <3

      • How’d it go?!? 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the positivity. I’m almost 37 weeks with my first and very much want to do a natural birth. It’s encouraging to hear that it wasn’t as bad as you anticipated and that you were able to take affirmative steps to help things go smoothly.

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