Braxton Hicks contractions is a common occurrence during pregnancy. In simple terms, it can be defined as a painless tightening cramps which is felt in the abdomen. It is often referred to as false labor because of its similarity with true labor contractions. Braxton Hicks was first described by noted English doctor John Braxton Hicks. For this reason, this uterine contraction is named after him. There are a number of factors that can spark off sudden onset of this strange sensation. They are: physical exertion, dehydration, movement of the fetus inside the uterus and sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of Braxton Hicks Contractions
Most pregnant women start experiencing the symptoms in the second trimester and it tends to intensify as the due date is approaching. However, some women may start getting it as early as in 6 weeks. Some of them may not feel any kind of discomfort at all and for others it could be extremely bothersome.
Basically, this results from contraction of the muscles in the uterus. In normal condition, when the uterus is in relaxed state, it is soft. As soon as the muscles starts contracting, it becomes firm and tight. You can feel the tightness if you touch your abdomen. It lasts barely for one minute or even less and subside on its own. Then the uterus and abdominal wall loosen up all over again.
As the uterus grows in size, this contraction is more easily noticeable and causes more discomfort. During this time, a dull ache may also be felt in the abdomen which may get extended up to the groin area. At times, the contraction is so severe that you may find it difficult to breathe normally or it may wake you up from sleep in the middle of the night. The pattern of Braxton Hicks symptoms are irregular and different in every women. Some women get it once or twice every hour, while others may get it just a few times throughout the day.
Many women fail to differentiate between symptoms of Braxton Hicks and a true labor. However, they are completely different. A labor contraction gets aggravated with passage of time. It is accompanied by a pain that originates in the lower back region and is extended up to the abdomen. A true labor recurs more frequently which could be after a gap of every 15-20 minutes. It refuses to go with changing position or activity.
How to Get Relief From Braxton Hicks
You can take a few simple measures at home to get relief from Braxton Hicks contraction pain in back and abdomen. When you feel the contraction, the first thing that you should do is lie down on your left side. This can reduce the pain and uneasiness to some extent. Do not get up as soon as the contraction disappears. Take rest for some time. If you get the contraction while you are lying down, then change your position a bit and you may feel slightly better. Or else, get up and take a brisk walk. As dehydration may trigger the muscle spasms, it is important that you keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Taking a warm bath can relax the tensed uterine muscles. Some women have found labor breathing techniques highly beneficial. Full bladder can induce the contraction. Therefore, you must urinate as and when required.
You must note that some women may not get Braxton Hicks symptoms at all during their pregnancy. This is absolutely normal and you need not worry about it. You should consult your doctor when you are experiencing the symptoms more than four times in one hour. It could be a serious issue when the contraction is accompanied by abdominal pain, spotting or vaginal bleeding.