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.