When you're pregnant, you can't help but worry about every little change in your body. It's only natural to be concerned that the baby growing inside of you is healthy and thriving. If you begin to experience any strange symptoms, you may wonder if it's time to call your doctor, or if you're just overreacting. One symptom you might experience is called Braxton Hicks contractions. Read on to learn more about them and when you need to check in with your doctor.
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
- When do they happen? Although they're most commonly felt in the third trimester, some pregnant women experience towards the end of the second trimester. They usually happen throughout pregnancy, but only become more noticeable as you get closer to your due date.
- What do they feel like? Some women describe them as feeling like menstrual cramps, or a tightening in their uterus. As if your tummy feels like a hard soccer ball. Contractions are, by nature, a tightening and relaxing of the uterus, and will feel like that. They rarely last for more than a few minutes at a time and don't follow any rhythm like labor contractions do. They usually are more uncomfortable than painful, and always get less intense rather than becoming stronger or more frequent. It's a normal part of the process.
- What causes them? A few things can cause Braxton Hicks contractions, like mom or baby being particularly active. When exercising you might feel them come about...no reason to be alarmed and also working out while pregnant is very healthy so keep it up! A full bladder, dehydration, or someone touching mom's belly can also cause Braxton Hicks. They aren't caused by actual labor, and they don't mean that your baby is ready to come out just yet!
Should I be concerned?
Braxton Hicks contractions are rarely a cause for worry, so if you feel these contractions, don't let yourself get too stressed! Unless the contractions aren't letting up, or they're getting more intense, frequent, or painful, you don't need to contact your doctor. If you have Braxton Hicks for a full hour and they aren't loosening up then call the doc.
Of course, preterm labor is always a concern among women in their third trimester, so if you aren't definite that what you're experiencing are Braxton Hicks contractions, it also might be best to give your doctor a call.
What to do about Braxton Hicks contractions
Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions will usually go away with a change of activity. Try simply taking a short walk, and trying your best to relax. A warm bath or a short rest can also help, especially if you've been particularly active. Breathe, relax, drink water, and slow down a minute.
Though it may be hard to rest and relax at such an exciting time, it's the best way for both you and your baby to prepare for the big day! In addition, make sure you're staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or mom safe herbal tea. True labor contractions aren't relieved by any of these methods, so if you've tried them all out and nothing is bringing you relief, check in with your doctor.
As your pregnancy continues to progress, Braxton Hicks contractions can occur somewhat more regularly, but until you reach your last few weeks of pregnancy, they'll most likely be infrequent, irregular, and not too painful. In your last few weeks, your cervix begins to soften in preparation to give birth, so contractions around this time may start to happen more frequently and may also become more intense.
Remember, if the contractions continue to get more regular, intense or painful, and they don't stop after a few minutes, it might be time to give your doctor a call. If you experience unusual discharge, spotting, odd lower back pain, vaginal pressure and pain also call your doctor. They would rather know what is going on with you and evaluate it rather than have you not bring it up. When it comes to your health and the health of your baby, it's always best to be safe! However, Braxton Hicks contractions are most often harmless, so if you find yourself experiencing them, try your hardest to relax and focus on steering clear of stress and worry. It's essential to implement self care in the third trimester. This is an important and exciting time for you, so focus on taking the best possible care of yourself.
Keep going mama! You're doing great!