As you begin mentally preparing for labor and delivery, your body may do some preparation drills. One such physical preparation can be the onset of Braxton-Hicks contractions.
Braxton-Hicks are non-labor (or “false labor”) contractions that occur regularly during your pregnancy as your body begins to prepare itself for the real thing. The frequency of these contractions can vary based on factors like your activity and hydration levels.
Regardless of the frequency, Braxton-Hicks contractions are quite normal and can really help you know more about what to expect as you count down to the big day.
Braxton-Hicks contractions are common during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Unlike real labor contractions, the cervix doesn’t dilate during Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions also tend to be pretty painless.
Braxton-Hicks occur when the uterus muscles tighten and loosen, and they may increase as you approach your due date. They generally come at random times throughout the day and may stop with certain movements or body positions.
You may experience more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions if you’re:
- on your feet a lot
- experiencing stress
- close to your due date
Regardless of the cause, frequent Braxton-Hicks aren’t cause for concern. But if they don’t ease up, you may want to check in with your doctor in case you might be in labor.
Related: Learn how to tell Braxton-Hicks from labor contractions
It’s important to know the difference between frequent Braxton-Hicks and the frequent and painful contractions associated with uterine irritability.
Uterine irritability refers to a disorganized pattern of activity in the uterus that’s sometimes observed during external fetal monitoring, although it’s not necessarily a diagnosis.
It can result in contractions similar to those experienced with Braxton-Hicks in that the cervix doesn’t dilate as it does during real labor contractions.
Contractions associated with uterine irritability don’t respond to hydration or rest and may feel more like menstrual cramps. They’re also stronger and occur more frequently than Braxton-Hicks contractions. While they may be annoying, they’re mostly harmless and should go away.
However, some underlying causes need treatment.
Possible causes of uterine irritability
Uterine irritability may affect women differently, and the exact cause isn’t clear. Some things may increase its related contractions, such as:
- an untreated infection
- a urinary tract infection
- lifting heavy things
Talk to your doctor if you think you may have uterine irritability. In most cases, contractions will go away on their own and pose no risk to the mom or baby.
Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about frequent Braxton-Hicks. You may want to record the frequency and pain level of your contractions for your doctor. They’ll use this information to determine treatment, if necessary.
Call your doctor if you experience more than eight contractions in 1 hour or have:
- decreased movement in the stomach
- leaking amniotic fluid
- vaginal bleeding
- painful contractions every 10 minutes or less
Your doctor may recommend that you try some of these things at home to help treat false labor contractions:
- get plenty of rest
- drink water and stay hydrated
- avoid caffeine
- keep an empty bladder
- avoid lifting heavy things
- eat smaller portions more frequently
- reduce your stress and anxiety levels (try these tips)
Braxton-Hicks contractions are a very normal part of pregnancy. They can occur more frequently if you experience stress or dehydration.
If at any point you’re worried that your false labor contractions are real, consult your doctor. They’ll be more than happy to check and see how things are moving along.