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Braxton Hicks contractions occur in about 70% of pregnant women

By Ask the OB/GYN  |  7/1/2015

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

First of all, not every pregnant woman experiences Braxton Hicks contractions. Some will have these contractions in one pregnancy,but not in subsequent ones. This type of contraction is extremely common, occurring in about 70%of pregnant women. A Braxton Hicks contraction is a tightening of the uterine muscle. The uterus is a smooth muscle which overstretches during pregnancy. When the uterus tries to go back to its resting state, you will feel mild contractions. In general, the sensation associated with Braxton Hicks contractions is not painful, unlike labor pains. It feels more like a pressure across the abdomen and may last a half an hour and then subside. There will be no change in intensity from contraction to contraction. They call this false labor.


What if my Braxton Hicks contractions are making me uncomfortable?


If you are concerned, call your doctor or midwife. Usually, a cervical exam will be done to make sure that there is no softening or changes to your cervix. Calling your doctor or midwife is always okay,even for you to just be reassured that everything is proceeding normally in your pregnancy.


What do true labor contractions feel like?

True labor feels different for every woman and may feel different with each pregnancy. Labor pains occur as the cervix begins to soften and expand,allowing the baby to come through the birth canal. The pain is felt in the lower pelvic area and will become more and more painful as time progresses. Different from labor pains, the Braxton Hicks contractions are felt higher up in the abdomen and you should not see any change in intensity.


What should I do if my water broke?

If your water broke, call your doctor or midwife. Err on the side of caution. If you have any doubt, make the phone call. This is especially important if you have a personal history of preterm delivery before 36 weeks. Your doctor or midwife will make an assessment depending on your medical history and how far along you are in your pregnancy. A test for infection will be done on your amniotic fluid, and you will be monitored in order to reduce the chance of infection for you and your baby. If necessary, your doctor or midwife will prescribe antibiotics. Remember, late in your pregnancy you may frequently experience an increased discharge. However, this does not mean that your water broke.