What Do Braxton Hicks Feel Like?

Every woman’s pregnancy experience can be different in terms of bodily and hormonal changes.
However, one of the constant occurrences in almost every pregnancy is Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as ‘false labor.’ Most women encounter it at some point along with their pregnancies, and more often than not, it’s mistaken for labor.
You might wonder, what do Braxton Hicks feel like? And how can you tell the difference between them and actual labor contractions?

What Are Braxton Hicks?

Braxton Hicks are abdomen contractions that happen at random times. They can start happening at any point after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the second trimester.
Because they can be intense sometimes, they’re often mistaken for labor contractions. However, Braxton Hicks aren’t related to labor contractions, and they don’t indicate the start of labor.

What Do Braxton Hicks Feel Like?

Braxton Hicks gives the feeling of tightening across the abdomen. They usually last for about 30 seconds, and they stay within that time frame along with the pregnancy. Unlike labor contractions, they don’t get longer with time.
The pain from Braxton Hicks is really uncomfortable, but it’s bearable. Some women said that Braxton Hicks are a bit similar to menstrual cramps. You can even feel your uterus tensing up if you put your hand on your abdomen during the contractions.
The contractions can become slightly more intense when you’re close to your due date. And that’s why they often get mistaken for labor contractions.
There’s no rule for their occurrence, and they don’t have a regular pattern. Some women can experience them constantly during their pregnancy, and others rarely have them. They’re also known to happen after physical activity or intercourse.

Why Do Braxton Hicks Happen?

Braxton Hicks can be triggered because of the baby’s movement or after severe nausea and vomiting. They can also happen because of dehydration. These contractions help with preparing your cervix for birth by toning your uterus’s muscles.

How to Ease Braxton Hicks Pain?

There are some things you can do to ease the pain of the contractions a bit.
  • If you’ve been sitting for too long, go for a walk to give your muscles a quick stretch. And if you’ve been active for a long time, try to lay down to relax your muscles. Changing your muscle status helps you bear the pain of the contractions.
  • Taking a warm bath or using a heat pack on your abdomen can help relax your muscles during the contractions as well.
  • Practice managing your breathing. If you practice breathing exercises, it’ll help calm you down, and you’ll feel less anxious about the contractions.

Braxton Hicks and Real Labor: What’s the Difference?

There are various factors to tell you the difference between Braxton Hicks and real labor. You’ll be able to tell through things like the pattern of the contraction, the location of the pain you’re feeling, and so on.

Pattern

The first thing you have to ask yourself is how often the contractions you’re experiencing are happening. Braxton Hicks are pretty random, and they don’t happen in a regular pattern.
And as mentioned before, they only last 30 seconds, and their time doesn’t increase over the pregnancy.
On the other hand, real labor contractions happen at regular patterns and can last anywhere from 30 to 70 seconds. Their intensity increases over time as well.

Intensity

The intensity of the contractions should be a good indication to tell you what you’re experiencing.
With Braxton Hicks, the contractions can stop when you simply take a walk, stretch, or even lay down in a comfortable position. And while yes, they are uncomfortable, their pain is bearable and isn’t very intense.
However, with real labor, the contractions continue to increase in time and intensity even if you walk or stretch. And the pain and intensity keep increasing as time passes.

Pain Location

The place where you’re feeling the pain of the contractions can be a good lead for you to know which is happening as well. When it comes to Braxton Hicks, the pain is usually felt in the pelvis or the abdomen only.
On the other hand, real labor contractions can affect your back and lower back. It can also circulate between your abdomen and your back. And it makes your whole body, in general, tense.

When Should You Call Your Doctor?

As a general rule, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you feel confused about your situation or if you can’t tell if you’re in labor or not.
Labor is very unpredictable, and things can get tricky or confusing at any point as the due date approaches. Your healthcare provider is here for you through the whole process.
Here are some cases to keep in mind where you should contact your doctor immediately.
  • If you experience intense contractions every five minutes for an hour.
  • If the contractions you’re experiencing are so intense that you can barely move.
  • If you experience any random vaginal bleeding.
  • If you feel like your baby’s movement has lowered than usual, give your doctor a call. If the baby’s movement is less than ten movements every couple of hours, it’s usually not a good sign.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you rushed to the hospital and it ended up being false labor or a strong case of Braxton Hicks, don’t feel bad. Better safe than sorry, plus the real thing won’t be too far behind.

Conclusion

Even though Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t generally very strong or intense, they can cause confusion in some cases.
But if you keep the points above in mind, you should be able to tell the difference between them and the real thing.
Remember, with Braxton Hicks, the pain is bearable and will only last for 30 seconds, and if you stretch or take a walk, the contractions will ease and stop.
With actual labor, the pain gets more intense with time, and it lasts longer as you get closer to the due date.