What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

Learn how to recognize Braxton Hicks contractions from labor contractions. Find out ways to diminish its effects during false labor pains.

“Everything comes gradually and at its appointed hour.” -Ovid

Contractions, contractions. All pregnant women (and their partner) that I follow ask me how to recognize a real contraction. It’s quite normal! We don’t want to be forced to return home (if you’re giving birth in a hospital) if it’s a false labor.

Contractions of the uterus are not exclusive to childbirth!

Your uterus contracts regularly, especially during your period and when you have an orgasm. It is a manifestation of the muscle of the uterus that changes volume, that hardens and, then, relaxes. During the postnatal period, your uterus will return to its original shape due to contractions.

Surprisingly, it is normal to feel contractions throuhout your pregnancy. We call them Braxton Hicks contractions, named after the English doctor who first described them.

Find out more on our step by step guideĀ Pregnancy Yoga Resource. Click here to download it.

How to recognize a Braxton Hicks contraction?

These muscle contractions may be felt by pregnant women as early as the first trimester…while other expectant mothers will never experience them till the day of delivery! Every women is unique. Every pregnancy is unique too!

False labor contractions may resemble premenstrual cramps, with or without pain. You can feel tightness and your belly can become harder. You can also feel small electric shocks at your cervix.

Sometimes, it’s a reaction that is caused by the movement of your baby. Also, false labor pains can be the result of a rapid change of your position or a bad posture.

These contractions are mild, irregular and without intense pain.They usually haveno effect on your cervix because they don’t dilate your cervix.

However, if you feel your uterus harden regularly (several times per hour) or if the pain becomes intense (it could be pain in your lower back), it might be early signs of labor.

If you experience uterine contractions or regular pain before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it may be premature labor.

It is important to talk with your obstetrician or your midwife about your contractions.

It’s possible to stop premature labor with few changes in your lifestyle.

Even if Braxton Hicks contractions are normal, I think that you should be aware of any signs that your pregnant body sends you! Maybe (I insist on maybe!), it’s a sign to slow down…

Reduce the effects:

  • Always maintain a good posture; back straight, shoulders relaxed and your breastbone raised. In yoga, we call this posture Tadasana.
  • Never compress your belly.
  • Avoid standing for long period.
  • Rest on your left side to avoid compressing your venae cavae. They are the veins that return deoxygenated blood from your body into your heart.
  • Drink plenty of water!
  • Breathe right, slowly and deeply. Be aware of your breath and keep your stress level as low as possible!

Real contractions?

  • The first stage of labor will be accompanied by regular contractions (about every 5 minutes).
  • Your contractions will last around 30 seconds at the beginning and they will last longer…and feel stronger.
  • Your contractions (muscular and hormonal) will have an effect on your cervix which is preparing for delivery. Its action is to completely dilate your cervix, to make it thinner.
  • Taking a warm/hot bath will not decrease the intensity of your contractions…it may accelerate the process!

If your contractions are settled and nothing stops them, you are definitely in the early stage of labor.

Yeah! It’s time to rest before active labor.

Find out more on our step by step guideĀ Pregnancy Yoga Resource. Click here to download it.