Braxton Hicks Contractions

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or midwife if you start having cramps, but don’t panic. These may just be the notorious Braxton Hicks contractions.

Researchers are still baffled by what causes them, but many believe they’re your body’s way of gearing up for the real deal. Just as hiccups are your baby’s rehearsal for the big job of taking her first breath…these practice contractions are probably your womb doing some workouts to tone and strengthen for your big job of pushing her out.

What Do Braxton Hicks Feel Like?

Most pregnant women have Braxton Hicks, but sometimes they are so mild you don’t even notice them. They’re not usually painful —they’re more like a band tightening around your uterus, or your belly getting hard.

If the cramps are strong enough to make you think that you’re going into labor, don't hesitate to call your doctor/midwife. However, in general, you can tell if they're just Braxton Hicks because they go away when you change position, while real contractions won’t let up with a movement (and real contractions tend to intensify over time).Women usually feel Braxton Hicks in the front of the stomach, while labor contractions typically start in the back and travel to the front. If you’re close to your due date, Braxton Hicks may help with effacement (thinning your cervix).

Braxton Hicks vs Real Labor Contractions

“False labor” (also called “prodromal labor”) is a little different. False labor feels much more like the real thing—painful—but contractions are irregular and come at random intervals. Most women never experience it, but for others, it can last for days or even weeks before labor actually begins. If you’re having painful contractions that won’t go away and increase in intensity over time, call your OB or midwife right away. These are signs of real labor and are often accompanied by losing your mucus plug (also called your “bloody show”) and your water breaking—which can happen like a big flood or a leaky sink. For some women, the bag doesn't break until they’re in the middle of labor.

Remedies for Braxton Hicks Contractions

Overexerting yourself or getting dehydrated may cause Braxton Hicks, so moving, relaxing and drinking some water may ease them. Don’t fret, they won’t hurt your little one at all. Again, if your contractions are happening at regular intervals, are increasing in strength and if you’re feeling any pain at all, definitely call your care provider. Most moms will tell you that you will know when you are in labor…but it never hurts to get checked out if something seems awry.

Contractions or Other Warning Signs to Call your Doctor About

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.