Pregnancy is a natural process and nature has designed several mechanisms to help your body recognize those processes. One of those mechanisms is Braxton Hicks’ contractions. Let’s find out more about the phenomenon: what are they for and how to recognize them?
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Practice contractions (Braxton Hicks contractions, prodromal labor, false labor) are contractions of the smooth muscles of the uterus which do not lead to cervical dilation, and, consequently, to birth. They are named after the English physician John Braxton Hicks, who first described this phenomenon at the end of the 19th century.
Some pregnant women are familiar with these contractions, and others have never heard about them. Trial Braxton-Hicks contractions appear about the beginning of the 20th week of pregnancy.
It is not difficult to recognize Braxton-Hicks contractions. You have the following feelings: from time to time the muscles of the uterus are tensed, and this tension lasts about 30-60 seconds. Their frequency varies from several times a day to several times per hour. At this time, the uterus tightens so much that a woman can feel it. Such contractions cause no physical discomfort, their frequency and intensity remain the same.
Braxton-Hicks Contractions: Symptoms
These symptoms will help you identify trial contractions:
- The squeeze in the upper part of the uterus, the abdomen or groin;
- They are irregular (less than 6 contractions per hour);
- Unpredictability and unevenness;
- Concentration in one area, but not through the abdomen to the lower part of the back as it happens during true contractions;
- Do not cause pain;
- Gradually calm down and then disappear.
What Causes Braxton-Hicks Contractions?
- Mother’s activity (physical activity), active movements of the child in the womb;
- Anxious feelings of pregnant women;
- Bladder fullness;
Even a hand put on the stomach can provoke contractions. You can avoid some situations but you should be more careful (to drink the required amount of clean water without gas, to go to the toilet in a timely), in order not to provoke Braxton-Hick’s contractions.
How to Breathe During Trial Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Doctors around the world have not found out why these contractions take place in the female body. Some suggest that they help the body prepare for childbirth, during which the cervix changes, getting ready for the upcoming delivery.
Others believe that the muscle contractions of the uterus during pregnancy are just the body’s response to hormonal changes. Another useful and necessary function of these contractions is to provide the placenta with oxygen.
So anyway, trial contractions give us a great opportunity to practice breathing exercises, which will be helpful during real labor. As they say, the more you sweat in times of peace the less you bleed in war! Here are breathing exercises to facilitate the state of a woman during labor:
- “Saving breathing” – as the contraction begins slowly exhale and then take a full deep breath;
- “Like a dog” – shallow, rapid breathing during contractions but only for 20-30 seconds – or there may begin dizziness since the body doesn’t get enough oxygen.
- “Candle” – this type of breathing can replace the previous one: you need to take a deep, slow breath through your nose, then sharply exhale through your mouth.
What to do During Trial Contractions
As mentioned above, it is best to study the situations provoking contractions and try to avoid them. If the contractions start, we recommend you to try the following techniques:
- A slow walk – walking helps to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus;
- A warm shower or bath – warm water also relieves muscle spasms;
- Change your body position – the uterus may tighten if you sit or lie in the wrong position, try to take a comfortable position;
- Drink – water, juice, compotes;
- Breathing exercises – in addition to facilitating the mother’s condition, it also helps to increase the supply of oxygen to the fetus;
- Relaxation – try to relax, listen to calm music, lie down, and close your eyes.
These measures will help you relieve the discomfort.
Trial contractions before birth
It can be difficult to distinguish trial contractions from real labor after 38 weeks of pregnancy, which causes anxiety. Doctors assure: you can’t confuse real labor, and when they begin, you will feel it. The main differences between labor contractions from trial contractions are pain with increasing intensity, spreading through the stomach to the lower part of the back; cramps; lower back pain.
Should I go to a doctor?
False contractions are a normal phenomenon, but there are some signs that indicate that it is better to consult a doctor:
- Bloody or watery vaginal discharge;
- Pain in the lower back;
- Any bleeding;
- Water broke;
- A decreased intensity of fetal movements.
If you are in the late stages of pregnancy and you feel that contractions become more regular, intense, frequent, and prolonged – maybe this is the beginning of labor.
So do not be afraid of false contractions – your body is just preparing for the birth of a baby and you have the opportunity to “practice” before delivery!
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.