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A tightening in the abdomen during pregnancy might cause discomfort and some concern to a woman experiencing it. But contractions are quite normal experiences -- depending on the kind, that is. Braxton Hicks contractions usually occur during the third trimester of pregnancy, but others experience them as early as the second trimester. What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like, and what exactly are they?
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Distinguishing Braxton Hicks Contractions from Labor Pains
In 1872, Dr. John Braxton Hicks brought light to the type of contractions that pregnant women often confuse with real labor. The English doctor explained and described the reasons why these contractions are felt, thus clearing up the anxieties in women who experience them.
Braxton Hicks contractions are commonly experienced during the third trimester of pregnancy, although in some cases they begin during the second trimester. A feeling of rigidity and tightening in the abdomen are the typical characteristics of Braxton Hicks contractions. Some mild pain or discomfort may be felt in the center of the stomach area, and the sensation fades away in a few seconds.These contractions are generally safe and painless, having a duration of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Braxton Hicks contractions have been coined by doctors as "practice contractions" because they prepare pregnant women for real labor, by practicing their breathing exercises taken up in chidlbirth classes. Braxton Hicks contractions tend to soften the cervix, and they help in toning the muscles of the uterus, which can bring ease to pregnant women during the time of delivery.
In order to distinguish Braxton Hicks contractions from labor pains, it is important to take note of the type and duration of the tightening in the abdomen. Here are some characteristics of both types of contractions that can help pregnant women tell them apart:
- Braxton Hicks contractions are felt for not more than 2 minutes; Labor pains last longer than a couple of minutes.
- There is a definite pattern in labor pains, unlike the irregularity in Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Real labor pains can be painful and become more intense as they increase in frequency, unlike Braxton Hicks contractions which are typically painless.
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Factors that Trigger Braxton Hicks Contractions
There are several factors that can trigger Braxton Hicks contractions:
- Increased physical activity or movement of the baby
- Sexual intercourse
- Touching the abdomen
- A full bladder
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Dealing with Braxton Hicks Contractions
Since Braxton Hicks contractions are normal during pregnancy, there is no need for concern or worry. However, if these contractions cause some discomfort, pregnant women can:
- Adopt a different sleeping position. Lying down on your left side effectively helps in easing the discomfort during episodes of contractions.
- Since dehydration triggers contractions, drinking lots of water can help reduce or eliminate spasm in the muscles during dehydration. Avoid drinks that have caffeine content.
- Do not stay in one position for a long period of time. If you have been standing up or sitting for quite a while, try walking around. A shift in position usually causes the contractions to fade away.
- A full bladder promotes contractions; thus, urinate if there is a need to.
- Attend childbirth classes for tips on breathing techniques during delivery. These breathing exercises can help you in dealing with contractions.
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Braxton Hicks Contractions: American Pregnancy Association, From
Braxton Hicks Contractions, From
Photo Credits: WikiCommons