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Braxton Hicks Contractions

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are tightening and squeezing of the muscles of your uterus (womb) during pregnancy. The uterine muscles control the uterus. Braxton Hicks contractions stop on their own. They are not true labor contractions and do not cause your cervix (opening to your uterus) to dilate (open).

What causes Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions may get your body ready for true labor. They may increase blood flow to the placenta. The placenta forms during pregnancy and provides oxygen and nutrition to your unborn baby. The placenta also removes waste products from the unborn baby. The following may also cause Braxton Hicks contractions to happen:

  • Exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Sex
  • A full bladder

What are the signs and symptoms of Braxton Hicks contractions?

  • Pain or discomfort in your groin or lower abdomen that comes and goes
  • Your contractions are short, and do not last longer each time
  • Your contractions do not get closer together each time
  • Your contractions do not get stronger or more painful each time
  • Your contractions stop when you change your position or rest

How are Braxton Hicks contractions diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may examine your cervix to look for changes such as dilation or fluid. He or she may ask you how long your contractions last, how often they happen, and where you feel them. Use a clock or watch to time contractions. Write down how much time passes between each contraction and how long each contraction lasts. Your healthcare provider may watch you for several hours to make sure that true labor does not begin.

How are Braxton Hicks contractions treated?

Your healthcare provider may give you pain medicine or medicine to help you relax. If you are dehydrated, he or she may give you fluids through an IV or have you drink liquids.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Change your activity or your position when you feel contractions begin. Walk if you have been lying or sitting. Lie down if you have been standing or walking. True labor will not stop by changing your position or activity.
  • Take a warm bath to relax your body.
  • Drink more liquids to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Practice your labor breathing to decrease your discomfort. This may help you get ready for true labor. Take slow, deep breaths, or fast, short breaths. Ask your healthcare provider how to practice labor breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have bleeding from your vagina.
  • You have fluid leaking from your vagina that does not stop.
  • You feel a gush of fluid from your vagina.
  • Your contractions happen every 5 minutes or sooner, and last for more than 60 seconds.
  • Your contractions begin to feel stronger or more painful.
  • You feel a change in your baby's movement, or you feel fewer than 6 to 10 movements in an hour.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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