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Video:Braxton Hicks Contractions

with Dr. Stuart James Fischbein

Braxton Hicks contractions are common during pregnancy, but do not signal labor. Watch this health video from About.com to learn how to recognize the difference between a Braxton Hicks contraction and a labor contraction.See Transcript

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Transcript:Braxton Hicks Contractions

Welcome I'm Dr. Stuart James Fischbein. I'm a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. My website is www.birthinginstincts.com and I'm here today on behalf of About.com to discuss what are Braxton Hicks contractions.

What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

You may or may not have heard of these contractions. They are rhythmic contractions of the uterus that occur throughout the pregnancy. In fact they actually occur when you're not pregnant - we just don't have a name for them because the uterus itself is a hollow muscle and it has rhythmic contractions not unlike peristalsis of your intestines.

Braxton Hicks Contract are Painless

It's very normal for the uterus to contract periodically. When you're pregnant these contractions will occur intermittently and initially early in the pregnancy you probably will have no awareness of them whatsoever. And they don't occur very often maybe a few times a day and they are essentially never felt. They never hurt. But you may, as your pregnancy progresses several times during the day, feel your uterus tighten up. Some people think that when the uterus tightens up that that is the baby balling up. Let me reassure you that babies don't ball up - they kick you, they punch you, but they don't crunch up for 30 or 40 seconds and then release. That’s a contraction. But it doesn't hurt anything like the contractions in labor will eventually be uncomfortable. These Braxton Hicks contractions will go rhythmically throughout your pregnancy.

You may see them more when you're up and about on your feet or when you suddenly stand up from a sitting position or you get up off the toilet or rise up out of bed. Changing position often causes the uterus to contract and your uterus to harden up. Again they are painless.

Difference Between Labor and Braxton Hicks Contractions

The difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and pre-term labor or labor contractions is going to be obvious to you. First of all they're not time-able Braxton Hicks - there's no rhythm to them they don't come every eight minutes or every six minutes.

Second of all they don't hurt so if you're prior to your term part of your pregnancy and you’re having contractions that are sort of rhythmic and you can time them, they're coming every 10 or 15 minutes and they're a little more uncomfortable those might be real contractions and the first thing to do in those cases if you have had no other problems in your pregnancy is to empty your bladder, drink some fluids and lie down and almost 99% of the time within an hour those types of uncomfortable contractions will go away. If they persist you should definitely call your practitioner.

In labor birth it's the same thing. If you have early labor, you wake up at night one night after 37 weeks and you're having contractions and they seem to be 10-15 minutes apart but they're keeping you awake, again you can empty your bladder, drink some fluids and lie down. If they're false labor or if they're Braxton Hicks type contractions they are just going to go away. If it's real labor it's going to progress. So the key difference between the 2 to recap is that Braxton Hicks contractions are normal, they occur without your ability to determine when they are going to occur, they don't hurt.

I’m Dr. Stuart Fischbein. Thank you so much for watching. If you'd like to learn more visit us online at About.com.

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