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Contractions, Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks contractions are the female body’s way of preparing for birth. The uterus is not used to contracting enough to push a seven pound infant out of the body and may need a bit of practice. For a new mom, or even the seasoned mother-to-be, Braxton Hicks contractions can be difficult to sort out from real contractions that mean it’s time to give birth.

The name "Braxton Hicks" comes from a British doctor, John Braxton Hicks,who was the first to describe the contractions that occur before real labor begiuns. Can you imagine constantly thinking,"This must be it," and then it wasn't. Doctors and pregnant women have Dr. Hicks to thank for clearing up all the confusion. The following information will help you determine when you are having “the real thing” or Braxton Hicks contractions.

Causes of Braxton Hicks Contractions
Simply put, pregnancy hormones are to blame for those early onset contractions. The body understands the need to practice a bit for the big day so slowly, but surely, these hormones start the process of teaching the uterus how to contract.

Important Facts About Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are different from labor contractions. From week 20 until the end of the pregnancy, the uterus will practice from time to time for the big day. At first, this practice may not even be noticeable to mom, but as time goes on and the baby grows larger, the contractions will get stronger. Typically, Braxton Hicks contractions will last between 15 seconds and two minutes. The contractions are not often evenly spaced like labor contractions and do not increase in frequency and strength as time goes on.
If contractions last longer than two minutes or they become stronger and more frequent over time, it is time to seek medical attention. Early labor can be stopped in some cases with medications that keep the baby growing inside the uterus until the time for labor is right.

Braxton Hick Contractions True Labor

Irregular in intensity
Infrequent
Unpredictable
No cervical changes 
Uncomfortable 

Strong
Regular
Less than 2-3 minutes apart
Last longer than 30 seconds
Cervix  changes
Painful

Treatment for Braxton Hicks Contractions
There is no cure for Braxton Hicks contractions as they are a natural process of pregnancy. When pains occur, you can move from one position to another to keep the pain minimal. These contractions may be preparation tools for the uterus, but you can also use this time to practice breathing and labor techniques you will use on the big day.

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