Knowing how to identify Braxton Hicks will help you relax during your pregnancy; it’ll help you know the difference between fake labor and the real deal. AND it will help you be more prepared when the big day comes. So keep reading on to learn more!
What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are named after English doctor John Braxton Hicks who described the contractions back in 1872. Some people call them “practice” contractions. They happen early on in pregnancy and are infrequent and usually painless. They tone the uterus, helping it prepare for real labor.
Some women feel them mid-pregnancy, usually beginning at 20 weeks. Other women, particularly those who are pregnant for the first time, never feel them at all. But either way, they are not a sign of premature labor and are completely normal and safe!
Braxton Hicks occur randomly, but may also be triggered by certain activities such as strenuous exercise, sex, orgasm, and dehydration.
What causes them?
Pregnancy hormones. Your body is hard at work, getting ready to have a baby, and part of this getting ready includes sending messages to your body to that you will eventually have to start the process of childbirth.
What do Braxton Hicks feel like?
Braxton Hicks contractions are just that, a contraction. So they feel like a tightening or squeezing followed by a release. Some moms say they feel them in their upper abdominal area while others, including myself, felt them in the lower abdominal area. Others also experience a shortness of breath or a contorted belly shape in addition to the contraction.
The key is that Braxton Hicks contractions are usually intermittent, infrequent, and painless, although they can definitely make you feel uncomfortable!
How can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labor?
As your due date becomes increasingly closer, it is possible for Braxton Hicks contractions to grow close together, become more rhythmic, and even painful. What will set Braxton Hicks contractions apart from true labor is that they will not grow and grow and grow like real contractions will, by getting stronger and closer together.
Braxton Hicks contractions can sometimes happen with no rhyme or reason, but they will often occur at night, when you’re dehydrated or have to urinate, or when you are engaged in physical activity (including sex).
This is another way you can discern if you are experiencing Braxton Hicks or true labor. Braxton Hicks contractions will slow down and disappear, especially if you drink water, relieve yourself, change position, or cease the strenuous activity.
What to do if you’re having Braxton Hicks contractions
Visualize– If you are using Hypnobabies or another type of meditation technique, this is a great time to call to mind some the mantras you have learned.
Breath– Breath deeply and relax. Follow the contraction from start to finish. I personally preferred to call my contractions “waves” and tried to ride the wave with my breath.
Magnesium – Many people are magnesium deficient to begin with, and during pregnancy, your body needs even more magnesium than usual. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle spasms, so keeping your level healthy may help reduce Braxton Hicks contractions discomfort. Here is the magnesium oil that I use every day (even when I am not pregnant!).
Drink water – Dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks, so drink plenty of fluids to help ease the symptoms.
Relax– Take a bath, listen to calming music, or keep your eyes closed for a period of time. When you alleviate stress, you may help with the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contradictions.
Use essential oils- It is important to be careful and selective with essential oils while pregnant. But try rubbing 2-4 drops of Lavender on your belly or diffuse Lavender in the air. Both will help you to relax even further. This is the type of Lavender that I use. You’ll need to type in Member ID#3508029, to order.
Walk – Sometimes gentle movement can help Braxton Hicks contractions dissipate.
Rest – Strenuous activity has been known to cause Braxton Hicks. Now, you don’t need to stop exercising altogether because exercise is good during pregnancy, but don’t over-exert yourself. Consider yoga, walking, or swimming.
What was my personal experience with Braxton Hicks?
Well, unlike many first-time moms, I did experience Braxton Hicks contractions, but only once. My mother-in-law was in town, and she, Erik, and I decided to visit the local botanical garden and walk around. The heat of the summer coupled with dehydration and the incline of the garden paths, caused me to feel them. I had to stop walking, sit on a bench, and wait until they went away. But it didn’t take too long.
I’ll admit too, that in the moment, the experience was alarming. When I first felt them, my mind didn’t immediately go to “Oh, I am having Braxton Hicks.” Instead, I thought, “Oh no! Something is wrong!” but once they went away, I realized what they were.
And that’s my takeaway. If you do experience a sudden onset on Braxton Hicks, don’t panic. Pause, practice the suggestions mentioned earlier, and try to stay calm. Braxton Hicks are actually a really good thing! They mean that your uterus is getting ready! Think of them as the dress rehearsal to opening night. They are helping your performance to be better.
And now I want to hear from you! Have you ever experienced Braxton Hicks before? How would you describe it?
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