Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic uterine contractions that start at week 6 of pregnancy, although you may not feel them so early. You will probably start to feel them mid-pregnancy, but you may not even feel them at all (some women do not feel them at all). The name comes from the doctor who first identified them in 1872, John Braxton Hicks.
As the pregnancy progresses, Braxton Hicks contractions tend to occur more often, but until the last day of pregnancy they will probably remain irregular and painless. Sometimes, however, Braxton Hicks contractions are especially difficult to give birth to before birth.
It is good to be cautious when it comes to contractions.
If you are 37 weeks pregnant and have more than four contractions per hour, or have any other signs of preterm birth, call your doctor immediately.
In the weeks just before giving birth, the contractions may intensify and become more frequent, which will create some discomfort. Unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions from 6-7 weeks, which did not produce any changes in the cervix, the later contractions will help your cervix prepare for pregnancy.
How to make the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions
In the days or weeks before pregnancy, the contractions may become more rhythmic, closer to each other and even painful. They may mislead you and you may think you are at work. Unlike labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions during "false births" do not become longer, stronger or more frequent.
What to do when the contractions become unpleasant
If you have a few weeks until birth and Braxton Hicks contractions cause you discomfort try the following methods to reduce pain:
• Change your body position. Sometimes walking helps reduce pressure. On other occasions, rest will stop the contractions. (The contacts during the birth, however, will not pass and progress whatever you do).
• Try taking a bath to help you relax.
• Try to drink a few glasses of water (sometimes these contacts are triggered by dehydration).
• Try to do some relaxation exercises or breathe slowly and deeply a few times. This will not stop Braxton Hicks contractions, but it may help you deal better with the discomfort.
When appropriate, call your doctor urgently
Call your doctor immediately if you are 37 weeks pregnant and the contractions become more frequent, more rhythmic or painful, or if you have the following signs of preterm birth:
• More abundant vaginal discharge;
• Changes in the type of vaginal discharge, if they become more watery, viscous or bleeding (even very little bleeding);
• Vaginal bleeding;
• Abdominal pain, cramps similar to menstrual cramps, or more than four contractions in one hour (even if they are painful);
• Increased pressure in the pelvis area (feeling that your baby is pushing down);
• Pain in the lower back, especially if you have not had back pain before.
If you have more than 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is not necessary to call your doctor for contractions, unless they last 60 seconds each and are five minutes apart - only valid if you do not give the doctor other indications.
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