Braxton hicks and true labor contractions
What are braxton hicks?
Braxton hicks contractions are a series of contractions in the uterine muscle that usually occur in the second and third trimester. They are usually painless and intermittent, and occur every 10 to 20 minutes. These contractions are also called false labor, pre-labor contractions or Hicks sign and they are believed to help prepare the mother's body for the impending labor.
Not all mothers experience these contractions and many mothers notice only a slight tightening in their belly, on the other hand there are women who report such a degree of discomfort that they mistake Braxton hicks for early contractions.
What is the difference between braxton hicks and true contractions?
The only way to distinguish Braxton hicks from true contractions is by giving yourself time and trying to relax. Braxton hicks usually go away after some time especially if the mother rests and drinks plenty of water. On the other hand, true labor contractions will get longer in length, more intense and closer in frequency as time passes, even if Braxton hicks might get closer in intensity; they will not be consistent and will decrease with time.
Are braxton hicks painful?
According to the text book definition of Braxton Hicks, they should not be painful and should go away after some time when the mother is resting, but pregnant women who have been through Braxton hicks often tell you that they went to hospital because they' ve mistaken Braxton hicks for real contractions.
The truth is that every pregnancy is different. If you experience a painful tightening in your uterus, try drinking plenty of water and resting. If what you are feeling are Braxton hicks, the contractions should decrease rather than increase in strength and become less frequent.
How to alleviate Braxton hicks
Dehydration makes your muscles spasm and increases the strength of your contractions, if you are experiencing extended Braxton hicks contractions, try drinking plenty of water and relaxing.
Lying down on the left side or changing positions, if you are already lying down, often helps with Braxton hicks too.
A nice warm bath or a good massage will also help you relax and relieve these cramps.
If you are walking or doing a strenuous activity, Braxton hicks might be a sign that your body is under too much strain. Sit or if possible lie down and drink water to rehydrate your body.
Finally the breathing exercises you learnt during your prenatal classes usually help with Braxton hicks too - since your body is practicing for labor it is time you start brushing up your pain management techniques.