Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic contractions and relaxation of the uterine muscle. Sometimes, they are referred to as prodromal or “false labor" pains. It is believed they start around 6 weeks gestation but usually are not felt until the second or third trimester of the pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are the body's way of preparing for true labor, but they do not indicate that labor has begun or is going to start.
Braxton Hicks contractions are a normal part of pregnancy. They may be uncomfortable, but they are not painful. Women describe Braxton Hicks contractions as feeling like mild menstrual cramps or a tightening in a specific area of the abdomen that comes and goes.
Braxton Hicks contractions can be differentiated from the contractions of true labor. Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular in duration and intensity, occur infrequently, are unpredictable and non-rhythmic, and are more uncomfortable than painful. Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions do not increase in frequency, duration, or intensity. Also, they lessen and then disappear, only to reappear at some time in the future. Braxton Hicks contractions tend to increase in frequency and intensity near the end of the pregnancy. Women often mistake Braxton Hicks contractions for true labor. However, unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions do not cause dilatation of the cervix and do not culminate in birth.
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