What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Braxton Hick contractions, also known as false labor are irregular, infrequent tightening of the uterine muscle that begins in the second trimester of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are characterized by:

  • Unpredictable onset
  • Irregular intensity
  • Non-rhythmic
  • No increase in intensity or frequency
  • Diminish and then stop, often with change in position or activity
Dr. Melissa A. Brown, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Braxton Hicks contractions are practice contractions where the uterus is squeezing down or contracting around the baby. The uterus is almost entirely made of muscle, and so it practices once in a while—it contracts to keep in shape and be ready for the big day. But too many Braxton Hicks contractions can be a warning sign of preterm labor, so it's important to be sure that you don't have more than six in an hour if you're before that term.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

Braxton-Hicks are practice contractions that some women experience starting mid-pregnancy. Watch this video featuring nurse midwife Paula Greer to learn how to tell Braxton-Hicks contractions from the real thing.

During the third trimester, you will probably start to feel some mild contractions. Your abdomen will get hard and tight, then relax and soften. These irregular and mild contractions, called Braxton-Hicks contractions, help prepare your body for labor. Changing position, increasing fluids and resting on your side can help if these become bothersome. If you still have painful contractions after trying these measures for more than one hour, be sure to call your doctor.

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