What Are Braxtin Hicks Contractions?

Also known as “false labour”, Braxtin Hicks contractions are common and safe yet can be a concern for those who can’t tell the difference between these contractions and the real deal. These “fake” contractions do not mean that you are going into labour, so differentiating between the two is important.

This quick guide will help you recognize the differences between real and fake contractions as well as explain how to track real contractions before heading to the hospital.

What are Braxtin Hicks?

Braxtin Hicks contractions were discovered by an English doctor in 1872 by the name of John Braxtin Hicks. He was able to observe pregnant women and distinguish between real contractions and fake contractions.

Braxtin Hicks contractions are those that feel like contractions yet they do not cause any changes to the cervix or provide any indication that the baby is ready to be delivered. They are simply “practice” contractions that your body performs in order to prepare the uterus for real labour.

They feel like uncomfortable cramping that can be painful and sometimes causes your belly to harden. Some women don’t even feel them.

How do Braxtin Hicks Contractions Compare to Real Ones?

There are some major differences between Braxtin Hicks and real contractions – but if you don’t know what real contractions feel like, then it’s nearly impossible to compare.

Real contractions will occur in measurable intervals, meaning that the time in between is consistent with an obviously increase in intensity and decrease in time between. Braxtin Hicks contractions are random and erratic, occurring with no real pattern. They are weak and do not increase in intensity.

Braxtin Hicks contractions are felt in the front of the uterus while real contractions will affect both the front and back. While Braxtin Hicks contractions tend to stop when you change your body’s position, no rearranging of your being will calm real contractions.

What Causes Braxtin Hicks Contractions?

Apart from the fact that your uterus is gearing up for birth and warming up the contracting muscles, Braxtin Hicks contractions can be caused by having a full bladder, being dehydrated and engaging in sexual intercourse.

How Can You Calm Braxtin Hicks Contractions?

Because these are not real contractions, it is possible to calm Braxtin Hicks to regain comfort. You can be proactive by drinking more water and making sure you are moving around as much as possible. Keep your bladder empty, get some rest and move around to find a comfortable position. A warm compress on your stomach can help to alleviate the discomfort as well.

What do Real Contractions Feel Like?

If you have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, you may be nervous or unsure as to what the real deal is going to feel like. As I mentioned above, real contractions are going to occur in intervals – unlike Braxton Hicks contractions which are random and erratic.

To be sure if you are having real contractions, begin by timing them. There are some great apps you can get for your smartphone to help you with this. Otherwise, you are going to look for 3 things:

  • The start of the contraction.

  • The end of the contraction.

  • The duration of the contraction.

Most health care providers recommend following the 5-1-1 rule. When your contractions are occurring every 5 minutes and lasting only 1 minute for at least 1 hour, you should head to the hospital (or begin your at-home birthing plan). Your doctor may even recommend a 4-1-1 or 3-1-1 rule. Speak to your health care provider.

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