For a pregnant woman, waiting for a new baby can be like a kid waiting for Santa Claus – the anticipation (and growing discomfort) can make the last few weeks of pregnancy seem never-ending.
What’s more, there’s no sure date when baby will come. Instead, expectant moms have to wait for “signs” that labor has begun. One pregnancy phenomenon that can send many moms to the hospital early are Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are sometimes referred to as “false labor” because they can convince even the most seasoned mom that labor has begun. Named after the English obstetrician John Braxton Hicks who first described them, BH contractions are ones that don’t actually produce labor.
These contractions are sometimes called warm-up or toning contractions because they’re thought to help tone the uterus for the work of childbirth. Compare this to true labor contractions, which actually dilate the cervix. It’s hard to tell the difference though, because Braxton Hicks contractions can feel very strong and reoccur.
Wonder how to tell the difference? Here’s a cheat sheet:
- Change your activity. Usually if women sit down for awhile, drink some water, or take a bath, BH contractions will go away. True contractions, on the other hand will remain.
- Check the frequency. BH contractions are usually irregular and steady in their intensity while true contractions are regular and heighten in intensity.
- Look for other signs of labor. Do you have watery discharge or brown-tinged mucous? Loose stools or lower back pain? The start of labor is usually accompanied by these signs.
Eventually, you may find that you have Braxton Hicks contractions regularly, such as at the end of the day or when you’ve overexerted yourself physically, and you’ll become more comfortable in recognizing them. But if it’s the first time you’ve experienced such contractions and you’re not sure if true labor has started, it’s always okay to call your caring pregnancy physician at Gainesville’s All About Women.