Braxton Hicks (contractions of)

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In this article

  • What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
  • How are they distinguished from true contractions?
  • What to do in case of Braxton Hicks contractions?

What are Braxton Kicks contractions?

Le contractions of Braxton Hicks they are abdominal spasms with which the muscular tissues of the uterus prepare for labor. These sporadic contractions can be felt by the mother as early as the second trimester, although the frequency tends to intensify during the last months of gestation.

The perceived sensation is similar to a menstrual cramp or a hardening of the belly which can last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, especially in moments of physical activity or movement of the child.

The name of the phenomenon derives from that of the doctor John Braxton Hicks who first studied and described its characteristics in 1872.


What causes these false labor pains is the hormone oxytocin, which is activated to promote the flow of blood to the placenta and strengthen the muscle tissue of the uterus in anticipation of the great efforts due to the actual birth moment.

Such abdominal spasms can occur following sexual intercourse, al movement of the child inside the baby bump or to one bladder too full

Read also: Abdominal pain in pregnancy

How are they distinguished from true contractions?

Braxton Hicks contractions are distinguished from true contractions by some characteristics:

  • they are neither frequent nor rhythmic,
  • interest the abdominal area and not the lumbar one,
  • they do not modify the cervix,
  • are variables such as intensity
  • and associate with a feeling of discomfort or discomfort, rather than real pain.
  • Furthermore they do not increase in frequency and intensity over time. 

What to do in case of Braxton Hicks contractions?

Normally these "false contractions" disappear spontaneously after a few tens of seconds: if this does not happen, it can be useful change position, do a hot bath or increase fluid intake. The contractions of Braxton Hicks, in fact, are more recurrent if the mother is dehydrated. Taking a short walk can also help ease the discomfort.

If after a reasonably long time the condition persists, then you can contact your gynecologist, especially if the phenomenon is accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal bleeding o constant loss of liquids.

FONTE: National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Questions and answers

Are Braxton Hicks contractions painful?

No, they are considered more as a nuisance than as a real pain. They vaguely remember menstrual cramps

How long do Braxton Hicks contractions last?

They are unpredictable. They can usually last between 30 seconds (or less) and two minutes.

Where are Braxton Hicks contractions felt?

Unlike "real" contractions involving the lower back, Braxton Hicks' contractions focus on the abdominal area.

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