Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Make You Want To Scream?

I know from experience how frustrating it can be to have Braxton Hicks contractions, and wonder constantly if you're in labor. I’ll do my best to de-mystify these annoying contractions. And, I’ll give you some tips on how to tell whether they're the real deal.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Believe it or not, your uterus actually starts contracting very early on in your pregnancy. The contractions aren’t strong, and you don’t usually feel it until you’re pretty far along.

Braxton Hicks contractions are just your body’s way of preparing for real labor contractions, which is why they are sometimes called practice contractions.

Usually, they aren’t painful. They just feel like a tightening in your belly. They may be uncomfortable and at times might feel a bit intense, but they aren’t strong like true labor contractions.

If you've been pregnant before, you probably feel them more than you did the first time around. First time moms sometimes don't even feel them at all. When I was pregnant with my third baby, I distinctly remember feeling them in my first trimester! Talk about annoying.... They didn't hurt at all, but I felt them on and off throughout the entire pregnancy.

Sometimes at the end of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions get very intense, leaving you wondering if you're in labor. When they are continuous and strong like this, but they are erratic, it's often called false labor.

Braxton Hicks or the Real Deal?
How to Tell

Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you decide whether they're Braxton Hicks or labor contractions.

  • Do the contractions stop when you change activity?
  • Are they gradually getting closer and closer together?
  • Do you feel the contractions as just a tightening in your belly, or do you feel them all over, in your back, or radiating through your belly, back and pelvis?

If you are having contractions and you’re not sure if they’re real, change your activity. If you’re up and about, try lying down for a while. If you’re relaxing, try getting up and taking a walk.

If you are in real labor, changing activity will not stop the contractions. They will continue to progressively get stronger and longer.

To track your contractions, time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction. Keep track for an hour or two and see if they are progressively getting closer.

The key difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labor contractions is consistent progress. True labor contractions will consistently get stronger, longer and closer together.

5 Ways to Cope With Braxton Hicks Contractions

  • Relax Try to stay as relaxed as you can and rest. Deep breathing will help with relaxation and pain. You can use lavender essential oil to calm both the contractions and your nerves.
  • Drink Water Dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks contractions, so drink a lot of water. It might make the contractions go away.
  • Don’t Go to the Hospital It’s much more comfortable to hang out at home than waiting around in the hospital for things to kick into gear. Labor will also start and progress more quickly when you are completely relaxed and comfortable in your environment.
  • Leave Well Enough Alone Try to hang in there and not get too disappointed if you’re not experiencing true labor. Trust me, your time will come. It’s a good idea to resist the urge to exert your energy trying to get labor going by, say, walking hills for 5 miles. You’ll just tire yourself out. Save your energy for when you’re really in labor.
  • Keep Busy Do what you can to keep your mind off of your contractions. I realize that’s easier said than done. You do yourself no good by obsessing over them wondering if it’s the real thing. Try to keep at your normal business. This will help keep your mind off of it. Rest assured that your body is getting ready, and you will go into labor soon.

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