Pregnancy is a wonderful phase for every woman. There are a lot of uncomfortable and scary things in the process.
Yet, it is a joyful experience, given the end product – a beautiful baby, a new addition to the family and the joy of being a mother.
Having said that, it is not easy to be pregnant.
As I said, there are a lot of uncomfortable things to go through to be able to experience that joy towards the end of the term.
The symptoms associated with pregnancy are all very uncomfortable. Ranging from the back pain to heartburn – anything can be uncomfortable.
And some pregnancy symptoms like cramps, bleeding, pelvic pain/pressure, and back pain can be scary. In some cases they can be normal part of a healthy pregnancy; while sometimes they can indicate issues!
One such symptom that occurs is contraction.
We all know that contraction of the uterus is crucial to give birth.
But the contraction that we are going to talk about in this blog post is not the real contraction leading to labor, but kind of a fake/false contraction called Braxton Hicks contraction.
What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
BH contractions are nothing but the gentle tightening and loosening of your uterus muscles. Picture your uterus doing test or preparatory contractions in preparation for the real labor contractions.
When BH contractions occur they may be an indication that the labor is approaching fast. They might not be an indication for a fast approaching labor as well!
In general BH contractions help with preparing your uterus and cervix for the approaching labor.
The contractions can shorten your cervix as well as help with dilation thus ripening your cervix, which is a crucial step for the labor to begin.
When do Braxton Hicks Contractions start?
They usually occur in the third trimester of your pregnancy. For some women the BH or practice contractions may occur anytime from week 16, though that’s pretty rare.
The contractions can kick in at any time of the day – morning, noon, evening or in the night.
But usually they occur during the evening or at night after you have had a busy day.
Also most women only notice the contractions when they are calm and lying down rather than while being busy during the day.
What do Braxton Hicks Contractions feel like?
BH contractions are usually painless ones. You normally won’t experience any pain while you may experience mild to strong discomfort.
Some women may just realise that their uterus is contracting, while for the others, it can be a breathtaking experience. For some women, it can be a painful experience!
When the BH contractions occur, if you put the tip of your fingers over your belly you can feel the tightening effect.
Each contraction can last for about 30 seconds and they are usually irregular – you may get one in two hours or a few per day.
How do Braxton Hicks contractions differ from real labor contractions?
It can be really confusing when you are experiencing contractions and are not sure if they are the BH contractions or real labor contractions – especially when you are in the third trimester!
Before we proceed with discussing the difference, here’s an important thing to note: If you experience labor contractions before week 37 of your pregnancy, you are experiencing pre-term labor.
And such a condition will require immediate medical attention. So don’t hesitate to call your doctor or visit the hospital right away.
Now as to the difference between BH and real labor contractions here are some:
- BH contractions, as we discussed earlier, are usually not painful. But real labor contractions are painful and can feel like menstrual cramps.
- BH contractions come and go. They do not usually occur in regular intervals or very close together. Real labor contractions, on the other hand, occur in regular intervals. The more you are near labor, the more intense and close they can get.
- BH contractions go away when you do any or all of the following: take a walk, lie down, drink a glass of water, put your feet up and relax. But real labor contractions won’t go away even if you do any of these.
- Real labor contractions are usually accompanied by mild to severe lower back pain – kind of the one you get while on your periods.
- Also when real labor is approaching, you might leak amniotic fluid (not that you would for sure), and the contractions can also be accompanied by the bloody show where you lose your mucus plug in whole or in parts.
- When real labor approaches and you have real contractions you might also feel that your baby has dropped.
- Real labor contractions usually occur only after 37 weeks of pregnancy – anything before that can induce pre-term labor and you must seek immediate medical attention.
- BH contractions last for less than 30 seconds and can be up to 2 minutes. Real labor contractions last somewhere between 30 and 70 seconds.
- BH contractions feels like tightening or squeezing of the uterus, whereas real labor contractions include tightening accompanied by cramping that usually occurs in the form of waves. Women usually experience such a wave to start from back and travel to the front to the lower abdomen. And the real labor contractions will get intense and painful after a while.
What should you do if you have real labor contractions?
If your contractions are getting intense, and close – like about five to six minutes apart, it is time to head to the hospital.
Also if you are leaking amniotic fluid or if you are losing your mucus plug, head over to the hospital right away!
I hope this article helps you to identify Braxton Hicks contractions from real labor contractions.