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Braxton Hicks contractions are sometimes referred to as false labor or pre-labor. They prepare the uterus and start the cervix effacing and dilating, getting you ready for labor.
But if you’re not at least 36 weeks along in your pregnancy, when the baby’s lungs are fully developed and its “safe” to give birth, how do you know if the contractions you’re having are ok? In other words, how do you know that you’re not in real labor and about to have the baby?
You need to evaluate your activity and the frequency of your contractions and how many you have had. Take all three into consideration.
First of all, MOST false labor contractions are caused by dehydration. Many women go to the hospital and are given a big glass of water to drink. The contractions stop and they go home. OR they’re hooked up to an IV. Once re-hydrated, the contractions stop and they go home. You can do this at home. Drink water. If you think you’re having too many contractions, just drink a big glass of water and see what happens. If they don’t stop, be concerned and call your doctor or midwife. With that said, if your contractions are feeling a little bit intense, just go checked out right away!
Another time a woman experiences Braxton Hicks contractions is while exercising. If you’re walking, swimming or doing some other form of aerobic exercise and you’re having lots of contractions, that’s ok if they stop once you stop your activity and drink some water. So it’s ok to walk for an hour and have these contractions every 5 minutes or so while you’re moving.
On the other hand, if you’re lounging around and having contractions every 5 minutes and you’ve eaten and have had plenty of water and they won’t stop, this is the time for concern. Call your doctor or midwife and tell them what’s going on.
If you have 2-3 contractions once in awhile, that’s ok. But if you’re having contractions every 20-30 minutes all day long, it sounds like you might be in a pattern of early labor and this would be cause for concern.
So in conclusion, a few contractions that are about 5 minutes apart are ok especially if you experience them during physical activity. In contrast, having consistent contractions 20-30 minutes apart that don’t stop when you drink water or change or activity would be cause for concern.
I hope this has answered your question about Braxton Hicks contractions. You might find my other articles on dilation useful.
- What does being 2 centimeters dilated mean?
- How long does it take the cervix to dilate 5 centimeters?
- Cervical dilation 101: frequently asked questions
- what is a birth doula and should I have one