Braxton Hicks contractions are a sign that your uterus is getting ready for birth.. Find out more about braxton hicks, what do they feel like and how they are different from labour contractions!
During your pregnancy you may start to feel a tightening and discomfort
in your abdomen, but don’t panic! This is not a sign that you’re ready to give
birth. You’re more likely to be having Braxton
Hicks contractions, sometimes referred to as ‘practice’ or ‘false’
What are Braxton Hicks
Braxton Hicks contractions are a sign that your uterus is getting ready
for birth. They can start from around week 7 but most women won’t feel them
until the later stages of their pregnancy, and some women won’t feel them at
all. If this is your first pregnancy, you might not notice these contractions
until around week 16 of your pregnancy. For some women expecting their second
or later child, you may feel them earlier on and more frequently, as your body
responds to being pregnant again.
These contractions help to tone the muscles of your uterus and can also
help the cervix to prepare for the birth. Braxton Hicks contractions are not a sign that you are going into
labour and they do not cause the
onset of labour.
What do they feel like?
They can feel slightly different from woman to woman, but generally you
will notice and feel a tightening of the muscles across your belly and lower
abdomen. If you place your hands on your lower belly during one of the
contractions, you may feel the uterus becoming hard as the muscles contract and
While you might experience discomfort, it is rare for Braxton Hicks
contractions to be painful.
How are they different from
There are a few ways to tell the difference between a Braxton Hicks
contraction and a labour contraction. Generally Braxton Hicks contractions
Last for around 30 seconds
Cause discomfort but aren’t painful
Occur a few times throughout the day, usually
once or twice every hour
Not escalate in the level of discomfort
Not occur closer together
Stop if you change your position or activity
During the later stages of your pregnancy you may find that you notice
Braxton Hicks contractions occurring more frequently, even every 10 minutes or
so! This is normal as your body prepares itself for going into labour and
giving birth. You might hear this referred to as prelabour.
How can I ease the discomfort?
Braxton Hicks contractions are perfectly normal and do not usually
require any formal treatment. As Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t labour
contractions, you can try to ease your discomfort with a few different methods
of relaxing. This can include:
warm bath– the hot water can help soothe and relax your muscles
hot water battle– similarly placing a hot water bottle on your muscles can
help ease the discomfort
break– frequent Braxton Hicks contractions can be a sign that you’re doing
much. Taking a break to rest or lay down and relax can ease the tension in your
hydrated– dehydration can cause cramping and increase discomfort, so
remember to drink plenty of water
to take regular toilet breaks– a full bladder can irritate the uterus and
similarly increase the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions, so take breaks
your breathing– Much like these contractions are your body getting ready,
or ‘practicing’, for labour, using them as an opportunity to practice your deep
breathing could be the perfect way to ease discomfort!
It’s often worth trying a few different methods to find the ones that
work best for you. It’s a good idea to become familiar with how Braxton Hicks
contractions feel for you, so you can pick up on any changes and developments.
Generally any one of the above methods, or similar methods, will ease
or stop the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions. If you find this is not
the case, or the contractions feel different to how you have previously
experienced them, you should speak with your doctor or midwife as soon as
possible, just to be on the safe side.
Should I call my midwife?
As mentioned before, while uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions do
not usually cause any pain, and can be alleviated by using some of the methods
suggested above. If at any point you feel sharp continued pain in your abdomen,
pelvis or lower back, and the pain increases or will not subside, these could
be the first signs of going into labour. If you are:
37 weeks pregnant- You should call your doctor or midwife immediately, as
this could be a sign of premature labour.
Your doctor or midwife will check your cervix to see if you are dilating, and
if this is the case, they will most likely admit you to your nearest hospital
so they can ensure the best care is provided to you and your baby.
weeks pregnant- It is likely your midwife will have discussed this with
you and advised you should be safe to wait until your labour is further along.
Most midwives recommend waiting until your waters have broken, and your
contractions are strong and no longer than 5-minutes apart before going to
What if I’m unsure?
If you are unsure you should contact your doctor or midwife, especially if at any stage of your pregnancy you
Sharp, continued abdominal pain
Irregular vaginal bleeding
Your baby’s movement slows or stop completely
Your doctor or midwife are always the best point of contact when
seeking medical guidance relating to your pregnancy. At the very least they will
be able to reassure you, provide support, and when needed, professional medical
treatment to ensure you are your baby are kept healthy for the duration of your
pregnancy and birth.
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