Signs and Symptoms
of Braxton-Hicks Contractions
Noticeable Braxton-Hicks contractions usually begin in a womanís
second trimester of pregnancy or around the twenty-eighth week
The process of Braxton-Hicks contractions actually begins around
six weeks into the pregnancy. However, most women are not aware
of the tightening sensations associated with the contractions
of the abdominal wall of the uterine at this early stage of pregnancy.
Intermittent uterine contractions can occur almost any time after
the pregnancy is well established, usually after the first trimester.
Braxton-Hicks contractions may be felt by the pregnant woman
or by an observer. Their functions are thought, by some scientists,
to increase, help to move and circulate fluids through the placenta.
During these contractions, maternal blood is forced into the placenta
and then, upon relaxation after the contraction, the blood returns
into the motherís circulation. The contractions are stimulated
by the increased amount of estrogen that happens as a result of
pregnancy. They occur despite the inhibiting effect of progesterone.
Progesterone is a hormone produced by the placenta that facilitates
the growth of the baby. The action of distention of the uterus
also plays a part in the occurrence of Braxton-Hicks contractions.
As the contraction begins, the uterus becomes hard and very firm
. Since the uterus has previously been in a soft or relaxed state,
the hardness is evident and easily distinguished by human palpation
or touch. The contractions usually last approximately thirty to
sixty seconds and then subside. The uterine wall once again goes
into a relaxed state and the abdominal wall feels soft to the
touch. After the eighteenth week, contractions become more definite
and intense especially in slender women. Closer to the end of
pregnancy and the onset of labor, the Braxton-Hicks contractions
may become more intense and some women complain of pain as opposed
to the discomfort experienced earlier in their pregnancy.
Although the contractions are still intermittent and do not have
a set pattern, like true labor, the feelings experienced are more
like a painful period. The pregnant woman is more uncomfortable
with this stage of Braxton-Hicks contractions. The pain may spread
through the abdomen and groin area, which some suggest may be
helping the cervix ripening process that must happen before delivery.
Braxton-Hicks is often called false labor because of the fact
the sensations mimic true labor and it is happening at the point
in the pregnancy when one would be expecting to soon deliver their
baby. The differences between Braxton-Hicks contractions and true
labor are distinct and definable.
Braxton-Hicks contractions or false labor are irregular and do
not continue without increasing in intensity like true labor pains.
They usually last only thirty to sixty seconds and do ont change
in frequency or continue in a distinct pattern. The pain does
not increase and the pressure does not build with Braxton-Hicks
contractions. The amount of pain and discomfort is totally subjective.
Some women feel a slight discomfort while other women feel intense
pain. Both are normal sensations and are very real to anyone experiencing