These are contractions that are most commonly experienced in the third trimester. Research has shown that while they can start as early as 6 weeks pregnant, most expectant moms do not feel them until at least the second or third trimester (if at all!).
Deceptively similar to true contractions in some ways- Braxton Hicks contractions are the muscle tightening of the uterus that typically lasts from 30-60 seconds, sometimes up to two minutes at a time. Most moms describe them as an uncomfortable “tightening” of their abdomen that starts at the top of the uterus and moves down. BUT, if you have never experienced them before- how do you know what to even look for or how to differentiate between true labor contractions? Let’s look into it, Mama!
Characteristics of Braxton Hicks:
- Irregular- Both in intensity and timing
- Do not increase in intensity or frequency
- Slow down eventually and disappear completely
- Usually uncomfortable but not painful
What can trigger them?
- Activity- Either mom or baby, especially if mom has an “irritable” uterus
- Full Bladder
- After Sex
The common factor in all of those triggers is fetal oxygenation- meaning that when there is a potential stressor to the baby, your body compensates and increases blood flow to that area. Amazing how your body already compensates and protects your little one from the beginning! Not all braxton hicks contractions are “triggered” by something specific though. Some also say that these are good “practice contractions” to help strengthen your uterus for the big day. However, let me tell you from personal experience- they can sometimes be very uncomfortable and it can be exhausting, both physically and mentally!
How to help?
- Change positions. Some women experience them when they are more active, while others will have an increased frequency in the evenings when they lay down. Try changing activities or take a bath to see if they let up.
- Combat dehydration! Your body has increased its blood volume to help supply your little one with everything they need – try to increase intake and drink a couple glasses of water to help eliminate this potential cause.
The truth of the matter is, braxton hicks do go away. You may notice that they come at the same time of day, but overall they should not increase in frequency or pain. If so, then you might be looking at true labor contractions!
Lastly, you may be wondering when you should be concerned about braxton hicks? Honestly, if you ever feel like something is “off” it is never wrong to contact your provider! You know your body and your baby best- it does not hurt to just get confirmation everything is okay. Overall though, these would be some things that would warrant a call to your healthcare provider or check in with a local facility:
- Vaginal Bleeding
- Leaking of fluid from the vagina
- Strong contractions every 5-minutes for an hour
- Sharp pain that does not go away
- Contractions that you are not able to walk or talk through
- Noticeable change in baby’s movements- or kick counts
There are so many new things that come with pregnancy. Whether it is your first pregnancy or your sixth, they are all different and can present in new ways. That’s one reason why we offer personalized private prenatal classes tailored to you here at The Mama Coach. If you found this information helpful and would like to know what other things you might expect in the third trimester leading up to delivery & beyond – reach out to your local Mama Coach and we would love to connect!