Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular, brief periods of uterine contraction felt by women who is pregnant which do not signify true labor pains. These contractions are felt by all women during pregnancy and is usually felt in their third trimester, although some may notice them from the second trimester itself.
Braxton Hicks contractions are also referred to as false labor as these are often mistaken for the onset of labor by many. In contrast to true labor pains, Braxton Hicks contractions have the following features
- Appear sporadically at irregular intervals, while true labor contractions are regular, usually every 3 to 5 minutes
- Lasts for a brief and variable duration from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, while in true labor the contractions are initially 30 to 90 seconds and keep increasing in duration
- Disappear with changing positions and with time, while they continue with increasing intensity in true labor
- They tend to cause only discomfort as opposed to the pain noted in true labor
- There is no cervical dilation with Braxton hicks contractions, while true labor is accompanied by cervical dilation to prepare for delivery
Triggers for Braxton Hicks contractions
- Increased physical activity, such as during exercise
- Full bladder
- Sexual Activity
- Certain postures or movements while walking, standing or lying down
Diagnosis of Braxton Hicks contractions
These are identified from the characteristic features from the woman’s history along with a physical exam to establish the nature of the contractions and to rule out true labor. There are no tests or investigations required for diagnosis.
Management of Braxton Hicks contractions
During the course of pregnancy, your physician is likely to counsel you regarding identifying signs of true labor. At this time, the features of Braxton Hicks contractions are also explained to distinguish the same. If these false labor contractions are felt, the following steps can be taken to decrease them and make them disappear.
- Relax to avoid anxiety
- Decreasing activity level especially if the contractions were triggered by increased activity
- Change in position while sitting/lying down
- Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate
If there is any suspicion that these contractions are suggestive of true labor, immediately present to your local hospital and healthcare provider for evaluation.
- Raines DA, Cooper DB. Braxton Hicks Contractions. [Updated 2018 Nov 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546/