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When Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Usually Start

Identifying Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks contractions refer to false contractions that pregnant women have before the actual labor as the body’s way to rehearse for delivery. If you feel cramping or tightening in your abdomen during pregnancy, you may have Braxton Hicks contractions. This is normal and common among pregnant women, but this is not a sign that you’re about to give birth.

What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?

This type of contraction is the occurrence or sensation of tightening in a pregnant woman’s abdomen that comes and goes. Also referred to as ‘practice’ contractions, they are contractions in your uterus that help you prepare for giving birth. These contractions help tone the muscles in your uterus and prepare your cervix for birth.

Braxton Hicks contractions feel like muscles tightening across your abdomen and they can make your belly feel firm and hard. The contractions may feel uncomfortable, but they are not painful. They only last for about 30 seconds and come irregularly.

Although Braxton Hicks contractions may feel a lot like labor, they do not cause labor and are not a sign that your labor is beginning. Through vaginal examination, your doctor will be able to check whether there are signs of changes in your cervix and confirm if it is labor.

When Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Usually Start?

Braxton Hicks contractions usually start from early in your pregnancy around the second trimester or around 20 weeks. For first pregnancies, these contractions may start from about 16 weeks. In later pregnancies, Braxton Hicks contractions may occur earlier and more often. However, for some women, Braxton Hicks contractions may not occur at all or may not come until later in the third trimester.

Later in pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions may occur more frequently as often as every 10 to 20 minutes. This will prepare you for labor and is known as pre-labor.

‘When do Braxton Hicks contractions usually start?’ – this is a common question pregnant women ask their doctors. There may be different cases for different women, so it’s best to consult your doctor to know what to expect about Braxton Hicks contractions and when you will most likely get them.

How Are Braxton Hicks Contractions Identified from Labor Pain?

Braxton Hicks contractions and labor pain may feel similar in some cases and many pregnant women may confuse one with the other, but there are some differences to tell if it’s Braxton Hicks contractions or actual labor contractions. Here are some factors you can look at to distinguish the two:

Braxton Hicks Contractions

o   usually only last for about 30 seconds

o   usually occur no more than twice an hour a day (until late in the pregnancy)

o   come and go at irregular times

o   usually stop after taking a warm bath or shower

o   usually stop after you change position

o   uncomfortable but aren’t painful

o   don’t result in your cervix opening or thinning

Labor Contractions

o   last 30-70 seconds

o   last longer and get stronger over time

o   become very regular

o  get stronger more often when you walk

Bottom Line 

If you are unsure if what you are feeling is Braxton Hicks contractions or actual labor contractions, consult your doctor immediately. Braxton Hicks contractions are normal and do not need treatment, but it’s always better to be safe and sure.