What are Braxton Hicks and How To Ease Braxton Hicks

Our 4th baby is due in just over 4 weeks. Not long at wait at all, but these last few weeks I have been really struggling with Braxton hicks contractions. Some so strong, that I have even had trips up to the hospital just to make sure that they are not the real deal.

What are Braxton Hicks?

Braxton Hicks contractions, are practice contractions preparing your body for the ‘real thing’. Dr John Braxton Hicks ‘discovered’ these powerful warm-up’s back in 1872. BH (Braxton hicks) are painless, periodic tightening’s of the uterus. Most pregnant women experience them at some point or another and the more babies you have, the stronger you will feel them and the earlier into pregnancy they start. BH’s are normally felt after the 20th week of pregnancy, but many have experienced them earlier.

Braxton Hicks are just practise contractions, getting your uterus ready for the main event. Don’t worry about them trigging preterm labour, as Braxton hicks have no effect of your cervix or dilation. During a BH’s contraction you may be aware of a tight sensation across your bump. Touching bump will feel hard and firm, like a tight ball.

Although normally painless (compared to real contractions) they can feel uncomfortable, due to the tightening sensation. They can also be accompanied by subtle back pain, or cramps.

I don’t remember having many BH with my first, but I certainly did with my 2nd and 3rd babies. This pregnancy, The BH’s started at around week 15, and have been gaining intensity weekly since.

Now at week 35, I am experiencing BH’s several times an hour day and night. It’s relentless. With each BH’s tightening I am now feeling the urge to wee with the pressure in my pelvis. Many times they take my breath away and stop me in my tracks. Who knew that baby number 4 would be so much different to my previous pregnancies, where the BH’s were much more manageable… or even forgettable!

It can be confusing to many mums, if these BH’s are actually the real deal. They can come so strong, fast and even have a pattern to them (last night, mine were every 3 mins to the second) and can worry you that the BH’s are actually real contractions. If you are still preterm and have any concerns over if this is the ‘real deal’ please call your maternity unit for advice. It’s better the be checked over and reassured than sit there worrying. If you have any concerns, do give your midwife or delivery unit a call to discuss your concerns. It’s best to get checked out, than to sit and worry.

How to cope with BH’s.

I’ve discovered a few methods to help ease the discomforts of BH’s contractions. As mine are so strong and frequent, I find it hard to just ignore them, and I’ve had to find some methods of relief.

  • Keep hydrated. Being dehydrated (even just a little) can trigger BH’s.
  • Take a break. BH’s tend to pop up if you’re being over active and doing a lot. Make a cuppa, sit down and relax for half hour. You deserve a break anyway!
  • Wee often! I find that if I have a full bladder, this too starts the BH’s off thick and fast. Having a wee knocks them off for a few minutes at least.
  • Lay on your left side. This gives baby a little more room and gets them wiggling into a different position. A position change for yourself (and baby) can make a huge difference.
  • Have a warm bath. In most cases, a warm bath will relax you and stop those niggly BH’s. If you are concerned that this may be labour starting, a bath will either stop the contractions or bring them on stronger. Midwives will advise you to do this, to see if it’s really labour starting or just strong BH’s.
  • When sitting down keep your back straight. I’ve found that if I sit slumped, I put pressure on my bump which triggers even more BH’s!
  • Make sure your urine is checked at your Midwifery appointment. A urine or kidney infection can really make BH’s intense. Just a few weeks ago I had a really nasty kidney infection. One of the symptoms was intense BH’s. I found out that the infection from my kidneys was in fact irritating my uterus.

Remember, if you have any worries just give your midwives a call. They are there to help, and they wouldn’t ever think you silly for giving them a call.


I Told The Antenatal Professionals To Back OFF

Politely, I asked the sonographers, doctors and consultants to back off, cease contact and leave me alone. In my head I was upset, touched out and pissed off. I didn’t want or feel the need for any help and I was ready to explode.

7 weeks ago I was sent to the maternity day assessment unit with very swollen legs and hands. It was due to the heat, but even rest wasn’t bringing the swelling down. There was a concern that the swelling was due to pre-eclampsia (PE), but with a good blood pressure and no proteins in my urine PE was ruled out. But still, the doctor wanted to see me. Eugh.

I have a condition called Klippel Trenaunay Weber Syndrome. In short, my circulation isn’t great. You can read the wiki entry for KTW Syndrome here.  Doctors always seem to hang around me like I’m some Z List Celebrity in a crappy night club, because my syndrome is so rare. But the doctor that came to my bedside this day, was completely different. Headache inducing in fact. My KTW gives me a bright port-wine stained leg. This Dr looked at my legs and asked me which was the affected limb. Here’s a clue Miss Marple… it’s the one that looks a bit grotesque. *Internal scream lasting eternity*

Looking at my notes, he decided that I have had 3 very small children and that I must be referred to growth scans right away! My babies were, in his words “too tiny”, and despite this pregnancy being healthy and my bump measuring just fine, I was suddenly a high risk pregnancy. This was all news to me. I didn’t realise that I had tiny babies. I politely declined such scans there and then. I had no reason to be concerned and I certainly didn’t need the extra stress of extra scans. Oh and all of those parking fees that the bloody hospital like to charge. I swear I’d have been a millionaire if I found a better parking lot.

How big were my babies, I hear you ask. Are you ready for this… Shocker- they WEREN’T 5lb-ers.

Willow- 7lb 4oz, born at 37+1

Olive- 6lb 13oz, born at 40+1

Ivy- 6lb 7oz, born at 40+2

This baby is so far plotting right in the middle of the ‘average charts’. Whatever those are. All of my babies were born within term times (37-42 weeks), all were born over 6lb, all were born unassisted, all were born and put to the breast with no issues within 10 minutes of birth, none needed help with breathing.

For this baby I wanted a home birth, with minimal assistance. It was all on the cards, my midwife had supported this decision.

5 growth scans and 5 consultant appointments requested

1 week after my day unit visit the postman bought me 2 envelopes. 10 letter in total. Full of dates for growth scans and consultant appointments. I was heart broken. My homebirth went down the drain. I was considered high risk. I felt let down… and really freakin’ pissed off.

NOW!!! LISTEN!!! I am not telling this story (and what follows) to make any of my pregnant readers with growth scans to cancel all appointments. Most of the time these scans are important and needed. The save lives. But in my instance, it was a waste of my time, their time and resources.

At 28+3 weeks pregnant I went for this growth scan. My baby was measuring perfectly. No concerns what-so ever.

I was then sent into the consultants room. I was spoken to like I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I had to pause the consultant to tell her that this was my 4th baby and I was well aware of certain things. “Oh, 4!” she said. “Oh Great!” I replied “I take it you have not read my notes”. Cue awkward silence. Veeeerrryyy awkward….

I am a small lady, my mother is a small lady and her mother before. All of us ladies have delivered babies under 7lb, all of us have delivered healthy babies and none of us ever needed help with this process.

If I was to have delivered a baby at 8lb, I would be tested for gestational diabetes for carrying a large baby. I couldn’t win!!!

The consultant then went on to talk at me (not to me) about the risks I am putting myself and baby through if we didn’t go ahead with these scans. I was told that I was at risk of loosing my unborn baby. It all felt very scripted and impersonal. I felt like another piece of meat within the sausage factory.

If baby was still measuring small at 38 weeks I would have to be induced. And many of us know how successful inductions are these days!

I know what is normal for me- I know I do not carry large babies. I have a very healthy diet. I do not eat crap, nor do I starve myself (having put on 2 stone this pregnancy so far, I can say I definitely eat well).

When I told the consultant that I was declining any future appointments I was looked at like I had just kicked a puppy/ stolen candy from a baby/ told a 2 year old Santa isn’t real/ Stood up for myself and made my own INFORMED decision.

If this was my 1st or even 2nd baby, the conversation may have gone different. But by now, I know my own body, I am educated in birth and I know what is right for me.

And Now?

I am now 32 weeks. Last Wednesday and Thursday I was in hospital for a rather nasty kidney infection. It completely floored me and the pain was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I also had reduced movements and regular tightenings. I was being monitored rather closely. Due to the reduced movements, I was offered another growth scan. Guess what guys… I accepted! No, I wasn’t swallowing my words from declining future scans but I was being smart and responsible. There was a chance that something was wrong and I agreed for it to be checked out.

See, I am not completely against growth scans, extra scans or consultant care. I just know when it is (and isn’t) necessary. Our baby was completely fine, measuring on track and doing just swell. No more scans are needed (this was once again my decision) unless there are any future concerns.

So ladies, you know you bodies. You know your worth and you know you babies. Sometimes it is OK to say no and go with your gut instinct. This doesn’t make you a bad parent. Of course, if something needs investigating then go with the flow, don’t deny help. But, for us, we know what is right (and having slightly smaller than average babies is our thing).

Trust yourselves.