Contractions are a sign of labor, whereas Braxton Hicks are just practice contractions that can occur at anytime during pregnancy. Both types of contraction may be uncomfortable but with proper care, you should be able to manage them both until it’s time for your baby to make its grand entrance!

What are contractions?

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Picture of a pregnant woman

Labor contractions are rhythmic tightening and relaxing of the muscles in the uterus that help to push the baby down the birth canal and eventually lead to delivery. They are a normal and natural part of the process of giving birth.

Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions, which are often irregular and infrequent, labor contractions occur at regular intervals and become stronger, longer, and more frequent over time. They are often described as feeling like intense menstrual cramps or a wave of pressure that starts in the back and moves forward towards the abdomen.

There are three stages of labor, and contractions play a critical role in each stage. During the first stage, contractions help to thin and open the cervix, allowing the baby to move down the birth canal. In the second stage, contractions help to push the baby out of the uterus and into the world. In the third stage, contractions help to deliver the placenta.

It is important to note that labor contractions can be intense and painful, and may require pain relief measures such as breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, or medication. It is also important to monitor contractions during labor to ensure that they are progressing and to identify any signs of distress or complications in the mother or baby.

What are Braxton Hicks?

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Braxton Hicks are contractions of the uterus that occur during pregnancy. They are also known as “practice contractions” or “false labor,” and they are not a sign that labor has begun or is imminent.

These contractions are named after the English doctor who first described them, John Braxton Hicks, in the 19th century. They are thought to be the body’s way of preparing for labor and delivery by strengthening the muscles of the uterus.

Braxton Hicks contractions may feel like a tightening or hardening of the uterus, and they may be uncomfortable or slightly painful. However, they typically occur irregularly and do not increase in frequency or intensity over time.

It is important to note that Braxton Hicks contractions are not the same as true labor contractions, which occur when the cervix begins to dilate and efface in preparation for delivery. True labor contractions typically occur at regular intervals and become more frequent and intense over time.

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or true labor contractions, it is important to contact your healthcare provider for advice and guidance.

Contractions Vs. Braxton Hicks – Key differences

Contractions are the periodic tightening and hardening of the uterine muscles. These contractions help the baby move down the birth canal and eventually out into the world. Braxton Hicks contractions are milder, irregular contractions that can occur throughout pregnancy. While they may be uncomfortable, they are not as intense as true labor contractions and do not indicate that labor is imminent.

The key differences between contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions are as follows:

Purpose: Contractions are the body’s way of preparing for and carrying out childbirth, while Braxton Hicks contractions are considered “practice contractions” and do not indicate that labor has begun or is imminent.

Regularity and intensity: Contractions occur at regular intervals and become stronger, longer, and more frequent over time, while Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and less intense.

Pain level: Contractions are often more painful than Braxton Hicks contractions and can require pain relief measures such as medication or relaxation techniques.

Progression: Contractions lead to progressive cervical dilation and effacement, while Braxton Hicks contractions do not.

Duration: Contractions tend to last longer than Braxton Hicks contractions, which typically last only a few seconds to a minute.

Timing: Contractions are a sign of labor and typically occur closer together over time, while Braxton Hicks contractions can occur at any time during pregnancy.

Contractions are a sign that labor has begun or is progressing, while Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal and natural part of pregnancy and do not necessarily indicate that labor is imminent.

How do I know if I’m having contractions or Braxton hicks?

Contractions are the periodic tightening and relaxation of the uterine muscles. They help the baby move down the birth canal during labor. Braxton Hicks contractions are also periodic tightening and relaxation of the uterine muscles, but they occur randomly and without pattern. They may be infrequent and irregular, or they may happen more frequently as labor nears.

If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions or true labor contractions, there are several differences you can look for. First, Braxton Hicks contractions are usually irregular and do not get closer together over time like labor contractions do. They also tend to be less painful than labor contractions, and occur more often in the second half of pregnancy. Additionally, Braxton Hicks contractions typically fade away when you change position or walk around, while labor contractions tend to continue regardless of movement.

How do contractions feel when they first start?

When contractions first start, they may feel like intense menstrual cramps. The pain usually starts in the lower back and radiates to the front of the abdomen. Some women also report feeling pain in their sides and thighs. The intensity of the pain varies from woman to woman, but it is generally described as a dull ache that gets progressively more intense.

What do Braxton Hicks feel like?

Contractions are the periodic tightening and hardening of the uterine muscles. Braxton Hicks contractions are generally less intense and do not occur at regular intervals like true labor contractions. Many women describe Braxton Hicks as feeling like menstrual cramps or gas.

What is the 5 1 1 rule for contractions?

The 5-1-1 rule for contractions is a good way to remember how to time contractions. This rule states that contractions should be five minutes apart, lasting for one minute each, and occurring at least every hour for at least three hours in a row. If you are having regular contractions that meet this criteria, it is time to head to the hospital or birth center.

What triggers Braxton Hicks?

There is no one definitive answer to this question. Some possible triggers of Braxton Hicks contractions include dehydration, activity or exercise, and changes in position. Additionally, Braxton Hicks may be more likely to occur during the later stages of pregnancy as the uterus becomes increasingly crowded and the baby puts more pressure on the mother’s pelvis.

How can I check my contractions at home?

To check if you are having true labor contractions at home, use this simple test:

  1. Time the duration of the contraction from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next.
  2. Note if the contractor is coming at regular intervals. True labor contractions will usually follow a pattern where they start out far apart and gradually get closer together as time goes on.
  3. Check to see how strong the contraction is. Place your fingers on either side of your belly button and press gently. If you can feel your whole uterus harden, that’s a good indication that you’re having a contraction.

When to call a doctor?

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing Braxton Hicks or true labor contractions, it is best to err on the side of caution and call your doctor. They will be able to help you determine whether you are in labor and, if so, can provide guidance on what to do next.

It is also important to call your doctor if you are experiencing any other symptoms that may be associated with labor, such as:

  • Water breaking
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Intense back pain
  • Regular contractions that become increasingly intense

Featured Image By – Photo by Jonathan Smith on Unsplash

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