Braxton Hicks and His Contractions

Who the heck is Braxton Hicks anyway?

After a month of “fake” contractions, and one sleepless but Braxton Hicks contraction filled night before going in for induction, I decided to see what I could find out about this Braxton person and his contractions.

John Braxton HicksIt would seem that back in 1872 an English doctor by the name of John Braxton Hicks described the contractions that occur before real labor. He was born in Rye, Sussex and attended Guy’s Hospital Medical School from 1841. As you can see for yourself, he was also a portly guy with a really weird beard.

Back to the contractions…From what I have now learned Braxton Hicks contractions, or BHs as I have taken to calling them, can start as early as the second trimester. Thankfully I have only been dealing with them for the last month or so, I cannot imagine having them regularly for three or more months!

Here is an interesting tidbit I learned from the American Pregnancy Association’s website:
“Braxton Hicks are also called “practice contractions” because they will prepare you for the real thing and you can practice the breathing exercises you are learning in your childbirth classes. ”

Isn’t that nice? To have special little practice contractions so I can practice my breathing? [I hope you could detect the sarcasm in my voice!] There is also speculation that it helps tone the uterine muscle and promotes blood flow to the placenta. Although my OB/GYN tells me they do not cause cervical dilation, several online sources state they may do some of the preliminary work of thinning the cervix. [Note: in my case they have NOT had an impact on my cervix.]

So what causes these nice little practice contractions anyway? Well, it seems the jury is out on that one but this is what I have learned thus far.

  • Activity and/or exertion from mother or child.
  • People touching your belly.
  • Sex.
  • Dehydration.
  • A full bladder.

As I have gotten closer to my due date, my BHs have gotten stronger and stronger to the point I am up at almost 4am with my iPhone’s stop watch on to time these things (oh goodie, more practice for the real thing!). One of my doctors assured me I would be able to tell the difference because the real contractions would “take my breath away.” What she did not tell me was that BHs can take your breath away too! All of the research I have done tonight says about the same thing on telling the different between BH and the real thing.

  • Braxton Hicks contractions do not increase in intensity, labor pains do.
  • Labor pains will increase in frequency, whereas Braxton Hicks contractions will eventually disappear. [Tonight’s BHs have varied from 3 to 7 minutes but have not disappeared.]
  • Braxton Hicks contractions tend to be irregular, and occur sporadically. Real labor pains usually have a pattern to them. [Although I cannot comment on the real labor pains yet, the variation mentioned above is why I am here typing and not on my way to Labor and Delivery.]
  • Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause pain, just discomfort, unlike real labor contractions. [And this is why I am timing my BHs, although I am sure the next 36 hours will show me a new level of pain, these little devils are quite a bit more than “just discomfort”!]

According to the American Pregnancy Association, these are a few tips for dealing with these things:

  • Change positions; lie down if you have been standing or go for a walk if you have been sitting or laying
  • Take a warm bath for 30 minutes or less
  • Drink a couple of glasses of water, because contractions may be brought on by dehydration
  • Drink a warm cup of herbal tea or milk
  • I have not tried the herbal tea yet… off I go! Wish me well. 🙂

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