Pregnant women in the High Desert region often report that they experience discomfort in their abdominal area or a tight feeling around their uterus every once in a while during their pregnancy. Many Apple Valley patients are startled to find out that these sensations are actually contractions — but they are not the kind that are dilating the cervix and preparing the body for delivery.

Known as Braxton Hicks contractions, these uterine contractions are simply preparing the uterus for delivery and helping to strengthen the body for labor. Braxton Hicks contractions begin as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, but most women do not notice them until much later on. The average pregnant women will feel Braxton Hicks contractions between 20 and 28 weeks gestation.

What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

Essentially, Braxton Hicks contractions are painless uterine contractions. The walls of the uterus will become tight and hard, and a woman might feel like it is hard to breathe for a short period of time. Most women describe them as uncomfortable rather than painful. They are a normal part of pregnancy, but they should not occur with great frequency. A woman may experience one or two of these types of contractions in one day, but not again for several days after that.

How Will I Know the Difference Between These Contractions and Labor Contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are not painful, and they do not occur at frequent intervals. As a woman nears the end of her pregnancy, she may start to experience Braxton Hicks contractions with greater frequency. However, these are not true labor contractions. A woman will know that she is beginning to go into labor when she starts to have contractions that are longer, stronger and closer together.

How Can I Make Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions Subside?

If you feel like your Braxton Hicks contractions are occurring too frequently, or they are just making you uncomfortable, you can take steps in order to make them subside. Drink plenty of water and be sure to rest for a while with your feet up. Most of the time, this will help minimize the contractions. You may want to take a warm bath, or use deep breathing exercises to help you cope.

When Do I Need to Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if your contractions become painful, or if you notice vaginal bleeding. Lower back pain and pelvic pressure may also be signs of early or preterm labor, so call your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms in combination with Braxton Hicks contractions.

At Reza Ahmadinia OBGYN, we remind our patients that Braxton Hicks contractions are a totally normal and healthy part of pregnancy. While they may be mildly uncomfortable, they should not be painful. Women should take note of the number of Braxton Hicks contractions that they are experiencing on a daily basis, and if they feel like it is happening too frequently, they should make it a point to rest and take it easy. To find out more information about Braxton Hicks contractions, talk with Dr. Ahmadinia at your next prenatal appointment.