Braxton Hicks and His Contractions

August 30, 2009

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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    I cannot believe I met a massage I did not like…

    August 25, 2009

    I really thought I was going into labor today.   I mean honestly, how much more swollen can a pregnant girl get without bursting at the seams? I feel like I am going to pop!

    Look at those swollen fingers!

    Look at those swollen fingers!

    Seriously though, all of the labor signs seemed to be occurring just like “What to Expecting When You Are Expecting” said.  My contractions were much stronger than they have been in the past and were growing stronger still, and they were pretty consistent too, showing up once every five to seven minutes for a couple of hours. This is labor, right?

    As first time parents, we were so giddy we could bust.  Russ was so cute with his iPhone in one hand and his finger ready to hit the “Lap” button in the stop watch program the instant I had my next contraction. 🙂

    As Russ and I left for our ultrasound and 39 week doctor’s visit we were a bit giddy with anticipation and trepidation due to the news Jellybean was an Amazon sized watermelon.

    I thought, okay, this is it! Finally! Yippee!  I am going to be a mommy today!

    So, with what I knew were labor pains going on I was actually looking forward to that fun little cervical exam.  To say I was slightly disappointed when I learned my cervix was still closed would be an understatement.  Not only would I have preferred for Jellybean to make her debut at 8.5 pounds instead of 9.5 pounds, I was really excited thinking this was the day I was going to become a mother!

    Alas, it seems I was just experiencing some very strong Braxton Hicks contractions and I was destined to swell another day.

    So when the doctor suggested a “cervical massage” I was quite intrigued.  Anyone that knows me knows I love a good massage and this was something I had not experienced before.  Dr. Williams went on to explain that a “cervical massage” was just that, massaging the cervix directly.  She said the massage helps “prime” the cervix and hasten the dilation and labor process.  Woo hoo! I excitedly agreed.  Anything to help move things along seemed like a good idea to me and besides, I have a personal policy against turning down massages generally.

    Oh my gosh!  OUCH!  YIKES!  Eeeeoooowwww!

    Forget trigger point, rolfing, and even TMJ massage treatments, I have now experienced the most painful “massage” of my life.  I do not think I was able to make it for an entire minute (Russ says it was more like five seconds) before I begged for mercy.  It turns out “cervical massage” is a kinder, gentler term for “stripping away the membranes” – something I would have never agreed to or at least not so eagerly.

    On a positive note however, she did let me know she was able to strip away some old scar tissue and suggested it would be helpful in bringing on labor.

    No labor yet but I will keep you posted!

    Today’s mantra:  Let God handle it, do not try to drive the bus.  Let’s say that three times together!

    Let God handle it, do not try to drive the bus.
    Let God handle it, do not try to drive the bus.
    Let God handle it, do not try to drive the bus.

    Sometimes it is so hard being a control freak!


    The Dress Rehearsal

    August 22, 2009

    My OB/GYN was concerned enough about my ‘near accident’ mentioned in Here Comes Mama Bear she had me go straight from the Apple Store to Labor and Delivery at Virginia Hospital Center.  It was a little frightening hearing the certainty in the nurse’s voice when she said “yes, I am sure the doctor wants you to report to labor and delivery” and I wasted little time getting out of the Apple Store and over to the hospital.

    So it was rather interesting as I lay there with an IV in my arm, contractions 4-8 minutes apart, and thinking to myself “this could be it”.  Quickly a list of things I had yet to complete went through my brain:

    • Knobs for dresser
    • Rocking chair for nursery
    • Sign paperwork from Cord Blood Registry
    • Pack hospital bag

    and the list goes on.  I quite rationally looked at my OB and told her I was not psychologically prepared to have a baby that day nor was the nursery ready to receive its occupant. 

    They decided to keep monitoring me while doing nothing to progress or halt the contractions.  Thankfully the contractions stopped around 2-3am and I was able to go home around lunch time the next day.

    Meanwhile, Russ and I had a wonderful time exploring the hospital and getting a lay of the land so we will be perfectly comfortable when the “big day” does finally arrive.   We even found a great sandwich shop that delivers to the hospital to save us from having to dine on the bland fare from the hospital’s cafeteria. 🙂