Your Experience with Braxton Hicks Contractions

Before I say anything else, let me make it clear that I am under a doctor’s care and she knows all about what’s going on. I was just in on Tuesday to discuss this and talked to the nurse this morning.

That said… I’m about 32 weeks along now and getting a little concerned. For the past week and a half, I’ve been having pretty strong Braxton Hicks contractions. They tend to come in bunches - 4 to 6 per hour for a few hours then nothing at all for a while. They’ll get worse when I’m hot, walking around, or aroused. Tuesday night I was visiting family and the house was pretty warm. I laid down on the couch and counted 11 contractions. They slowed down dramatically as soon as DoperGuy and I got in our air conditioned car to go home.

Tonight, I’ve been averaging around 4 to 6 contractions an hour again but with lots of cramping. The doctor and nurse assure me this is perfectly normal so long as I don’t go above 6 per hour. Still, it’s sorta scary and really uncomfortable.

I know there are lots of Moms and Moms-to-Be on these boards. I could really use some reassurance while I sit here anxiously counting my contractions.


I had those for eight weeks with #2. Changing position, peeing, walking, lying down, temperature changes, eating… these were all things my OB told me to try. Then they would go away for an hour or two, and be back. It was incredibly uncomfortable, probably equally so for my husband, who was forced to listen to my complaining all the time. (That kid was 3 ½ weeks overdue, BTW. I complained a lot.)

As a seasoned mom (3 in 5 years), my advice is to stop watching the clock and timing them so much. When you have to stop whatever you’re doing when they happen, every five minutes for an hour, call your doc and head for the hospital. That’s what I’ve always been told, although with #1, my water broke and that was a pretty obvious sign that it was time to go. The last two were induced, because they’re stubborn little kids.

I had those for 8 weeks with #1. I was even put on Terbutaline and bedrest. I learned later that it could possibly have been simply a matter of fetal positioning: head down is good, you want that. But you also want the baby facing properly backward, with its back curved along the front of your belly. This can often be achieved by such relatively simple things as: making sure you never sit slumped, or with your knees higher than your pelvis; spending time on hands and knees doing ‘cat/cow’ / pelvic tilts, resting tummy-down in a beanbag with a hollow for your tummy. Sometimes contractions such as you describe are your body making a vague effort to get the baby to turn around into a more optimal position.

I spent most of my ‘modified bed rest’ slumped in the couch. I had 1 contraction every 7 minutes every waking hour of the day for all those weeks…more if I moved. My doctor never once suggested I do things like get the baby to turn. She was born posterior (via c-section) after a hellacious stalled induced labor (because the idiot “accidentally” ruptured my membranes when I was in for a regular appointment (and then said “Well, you’re in labor now. Your water is broken and you’re having contractions. Go to the hospital. By the way, I’m on call the next 48 hours.”).

My point being…BH contractions do not NECESSARILY change your cervix. Contractions that change your cervix are the only ones you need to worry about. Literally. Generally speaking, that’s when they come more often than every 5 minutes, but I imagine your doctor will do manual cervical exams if he or she is concerned.

In the meantime, I don’t see how it can do any harm to try a few fetal-positioning activities, and it might help. Also you might want to try to see if you can google up a copy of ‘Optimal Foetal Positioning’, published by a couple of midwives out of Australia (thus the spelling). It explains the science of this better than I can.

Ohhh. I forgot: dehydration will also cause BH contractions. So if you start having too many, lie down and drink a BIG glass of water. Often, that will set things right. Since this is summer and hot, this might be part of the problem. And a big drink of water won’t hurt anybody besides.

You might notice: I’m big on ‘this can’t hurt, and it might help’ non-medical interventions, before going for things like Terbutaline. Particularly since I spent so much time on Terbutaline. Nasty stuff. It didn’t even work for me. :confused:

I don’t recall having any, but I know a girl who named her kid Braxton because her doctor told her about Braxton-Hicks contractions and she sorta thought it had a ring to it… :slight_smile:

I had them for I don’t know how long because I didn’t realize what they were. I kind of want to say 6 - 8 weeks, just thinking about sitting in a chair looking out the window while my sister berated me for not knowing what they were - it seems to have been warm weather and my son was born in January. For me they were more pressure than pain and I would have a few a day. They finally had to practically pry the baby out with a crowbar, so it certainly didn’t lead to premature labor. But it certainly seems to have been milder than your case.

Mother of 5. Had them all the time, even from early on. It’s just your body getting ready to have a baby. If you’re concerned, keep calling the doctor, but try to do things which distract you from dwelling on your growing belly, otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Lots of good advice already, so I’ll just echo it and say that, yes, I had Braxton-Hicks, and while they were alarming, they were nothing like the actual contractions of labor. I know, that’s not too useful to you if this is your first time.

The best way to tell if they’re “real” contractions is to change something - if you’re walking, sit down; if you’re sitting, take a walk. Take a bath or (with your doctor’s approval) have a glass of wine. False labor and B-H will both stop if you do this. Real labor won’t.

It’s also possible that these are “real” cervix thinning/opening contractions. Contrary to what most people think, labor can take weeks, not hours or even days. Some women just very slowly open up over a long period of time. These tend to be very easy deliveries, so cross your fingers! If your cervix is halfway open before “real labor” hits in, you’re that much further ahead.

Of course, if your water breaks, you should call your doctor. She’ll want to deliver you within about 24 hours of that, to reduce the chances of infection. Once the cervix opens far enough, it will pinch the amniotic sac and break your water. But many of us go to 4, 5 or even 6 centimeters before that happens.

While of course we’d all like to see your baby get its full allotment of 38-42 weeks, you should also know that your baby has excellent chances even if born today. “From 32 weeks onwards, most babies are able to survive with the help of medical Technology” - 34 weeks is actually where most statistics look identical for preemie and full-term babies. They’re slightly more likely to need some breathing help, but it’s usually just a little nasal canula (that plastic tube that rests under their nose), not a ventilator. We had a couple of 33-34 weekers in our NICU while I was there with WhyBaby, and they made everyone smile. Huge 5 pound babies with very little real danger, making our microbabies look like china dolls in comparison. Of course, the longer pregnant the better, and there are no guarantees in life, but I hope it helps relax you to know that you’ve got great chances of having a healthy baby any time now.

As with everything else in life, pregnancies vary, person to person and pregnancy to pregnancy. Doctors seem to think it’s all one-size-fits-all and that any variation is a medical problem. This is not necessarily the case. Any one of us can tell you personal anecdotes that throw “normal” right out the window…and we had healthy babies.

I have a friend who walked around 8cm dilated (yes, 8) for a WEEK with her SECOND child. She did not go ‘oops!’ and drop him out on the floor. When she did go into labor, the baby was born in about an hour…but it took actual labor to make it happen.

I have an “incompetent” cervix due to DES exposure in utero. With my 4th baby, I was found to be thinned down to 4mm but not dilated at 24 weeks. You can imagine the panic on the part of the doctors!!! Now it’s true: most women who get thinned down like that so early, do go on to deliver within days. I was put on hospital bedrest (which they know does nothing to actually delay premature birth but can assist in fetal growth in the time between when bedrest is begun and when birth occurs) and stayed there for the next 11 weeks. I STAYED at 4mm and my kid was born at 39 weeks…naturally. Why? Who knows. The doctors were baffled.

Another thing to keep in mind: cervical exams tell your doctor NOTHING except approximately where you are at the moment of the check - and even that measurement is an educated guess, and will vary from one guesser to the next. The cervix is a muscle, and can lengthen or shorten and within certain limits, this means nothing. You can certainly, if you’re worried, ask your doctor for a cervical check. But don’t take it for gospel truth, a pronouncement of doom, or anything else. Every OB has seen women they would have SWORN would deliver within the day based on their cervical check (like me) and they go weeks (or months) beyond. Every OB has seen women with hard, long, closed cervixes…who show up in full labor 12 hours later and deliver normally, without induction or anything else, within 24 hours.

So…drink your water. Try to keep the BH down to a dull roar. But don’t worry over things that don’t warrant worry. Your body is smarter than a lot of doctors would ever give it credit for.

If more anecdotes make you feel better, I was totally convinced I was going to have baby #2 early. Like a week early. I had SO many BH contractions and was rather crampy in the final month.
She was nine days late.

Take it easy, and don’t forget to drink your water.

Thank you so much for all the kind words and advice.

I’m beginning to notice that my contractions tend to get worse when I’m warm and better when I’m cooler. So I’ve been doing my best to stay indoors in the air conditioning.

On Tuesday my husband and I went to his parents’ house to go swimming. It wasn’t too hot out, the pool was refreshing, and I figured I could use the exercise. All went fine until I got inside the (non-air-conditioned) house after swimming. The contractions started around 6 and got progressively more intense and closer together. By 9:30, they were only about 2 minutes apart. So I spent the night in the maternity triage department on the monitors. The baby’s heart rate was good and my cervix was “very closed” during both checks, so we finally were released to go back home around 4am. Things have been relatively calm since and hopefully will stay that way.

My wife is at 37 weeks right now with our first child*. A month ago she started having the B-H contractions in singles, pairs, and occasionally triples. She’s proactive (obsessive?) about staying hydrated and is keeping very good track of all signs, signals, and portents. By all accounts your experience is totally normal. Don’t worry, drink more water, keep telling your doctor about anything you think is weird, and relax.

    • we don’t know the gender, so for now it’s The Nugget.

Had 'em so strong at times with Child #2 that I’d lock up mid-step and just stand there frozen till the contraction passed. I really couldn’t walk during a strong B-H. But I went two weeks overdue (15 days, to be exact) and even after induction, had to have a section*. So even really powerful ones don’t necessarily mean premature labor!

*No way that 12 pound kid with his 15 inch head was coming out in the usual manner!