Purpose and Causes of Braxton Hicks Contractions

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Why Pregnant Women Have False Labor Discomfort and How to Lessen It

Many pregnant women experience false labor or what are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Named after Dr. John Braxton Hicks, these false contractions are usually mild, irregular, and painless. Why do women have fake contractions and what causes them?

Purpose of Braxton Hicks Contractions

Doctors are not completely sure what the purpose of Braxton Hicks contractions is. The theory is that the false contractions prepare a pregnant woman’s body to deliver her baby. The fake labor sensations may help tone the uterine muscle, increase blood flow to the placenta, and soften the cervix. The mild Braxton Hicks contractions may make it so the woman’s actual labor and delivery goes smoothly and is less painful. For these reasons, the false labor contractions are sometimes called practice contractions.

Causes of Braxton Hicks False Labor Sensations

Braxton Hicks contractions can be triggered by various factors. These false contractions can happen when a pregnant woman has a full bladder, is dehydrated, or has recently engaged in sexual intercourse. The false labor feelings can also start after the woman or baby in the womb has been active. Something even as mild as a person touching a woman’s pregnant belly can set off Braxton Hicks contractions. Since the contractions are erratic and unpredictable, it is difficult to pinpoint what the specific causes are for each pregnant woman.

Ease Discomfort of Braxton Hicks Contractions

If false labor contractions become bothersome or disruptive for a pregnant woman, there are several simple and easy tips, tricks, and suggestions she can try to make herself more comfortable and stop Braxton Hicks contractions:

  • Change positions to ease Braxton Hicks contractions. Try rolling from the back to the side, as a side position is often more comfortable.
  • Empty the bladder. A full bladder can trigger false contractions.
  • Go for a walk to ease or stop the false labor discomfort.
  • Drink water or milk or eat a snack to ease Braxton Hicks discomfort. False contractions are sometimes caused by dehydration or hunger.
  • Try pregnancy relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm (but not hot) bath.

Braxton Hicks Fake Labor

Many women experience Braxton Hicks contractions during their pregnancy. The contractions are harmless. Doctors theorize that the purpose of Braxton Hicks contractions is to prepare a pregnant woman’s body to deliver her baby. There are various strategies women can try to reduce the discomfort that comes with these contractions.

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