With the daunting prospect of childbirth at the end of this journey, a pregnant woman’s body will begin practicing uterine contractions sporadically; these are called Braxton Hicks contractions and can begin as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. Of course, these cannot be felt by the woman until she is well into the pregnancy.

Braxton Hicks contractions tend to be felt more often as you get closer to the end of your pregnancy. Initially they are infrequent and mostly painless. Later women complain of an uncomfortable tightening in their bellies as their due date nears. However if you are experiencing contractions that are more than three in an hour, then contact your physician as it may indicate preterm labor.

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, your cervix will begin to soften so that it can prepare for labor. Most women observe that the contractions get much more intense and frequent. These can slowly but surely turn uncomfortable, nothing like the mild tightening you felt earlier. As you get closer to the due date, these contractions will thin out the cervix and begin the dilation process.

How can I distinguish between Braxton Hicks contractions and true labor

Braxton Hicks contractions do become more predictable and more painful as the pregnancy approaches your due date. This may cause you to think that you are going into labor. But the real thing will have you getting contractions that get increasingly more intense, longer and closer together. Believe me; you will know the real thing when you feel it! False labor is fairly common, so keep a timer handy to see if your contractions are getting more frequent.

What can I do to alleviate the discomfort from Braxton Hicks contractions

While Braxton Hicks contractions cannot be avoided, there are a few tricks that might get you through each one relatively painlessly –

  • Very often, just changing what you are doing can provide you with relief. If you are lying down, changing your position can ease a contraction or at least make it less painful.
  • Dehydration can bring on Braxton Hicks contractions, so make sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Taking a warm bath can relax your muscles enough to provide you relief during the contractions.
  • Simple yoga exercises like deep breathing can alleviate Braxton Hicks more often than not. This may not completely stop a contraction but will help you manage the pain more effectively.
  • The Indian cure-all of a warm glass of milk can do wonders during a painful Braxton Hicks contraction.

Most of all, as uncomfortable as Braxton Hicks contractions are; they are perfectly normal and are par for the course for a healthy pregnancy. Think of it as rehearsing for your big day – you will be glad that you got all this practice!