Braxton Hicks contractions

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Braxton Hicks contractions
Other namesPractice contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as practice contractions, are sporadic uterine contractions that sometimes start around sixteen weeks into a pregnancy. However, they are usually felt in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.[1]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Braxton Hicks contractions are often infrequent, irregular, and involve only mild cramping.[1] These intermittent uterine contractions usually occur every 10 to 20 minutes, also known as false labour.[2]

As pregnancy goes on, Braxton Hicks contractions go from unnoticeable amounts of pain signals to irregular, infrequent cramping to strong frequent cramping and then finally labor pains.


Braxton Hicks contractions are a tightening of the uterine muscles for one to two minutes and are thought to be an aid to the body in its preparation for birth.[3] Not all expectant mothers feel these contractions. They are not thought to be part of the process of effacement of the cervix.

Alleviating factors[edit]

  1. Dehydration can make muscles spasm, bringing on a contraction, and is thought to be a factor in extended Braxton Hicks contractions. Adequate hydration can alleviate Braxton Hicks contractions.
  2. Rhythmic breathing may alleviate the discomfort of Braxton Hicks contractions.
  3. Lying down on the left side can help ease the pain of contractions.
  4. A slight change in movement sometimes makes the contractions disappear.
  5. A full bladder can sometimes trigger Braxton Hicks, so urination may end the contractions.


Braxton Hicks contractions are named after John Braxton Hicks, the English physician who first described them. In 1872, he investigated the later stages of pregnancy and noted that many women felt contractions without being near birth.[4] These contractions were usually painless but caused women confusion as to whether or not they were going into actual labour, what is now referred to as false labour.


  1. ^ a b Hennen, Leah; Linda Murray; Jim Scott (2005). The BabyCenter Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Birth: Expert Advice and Real-World Wisdom from the Top Pregnancy and Parenting Resource. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale Books. ISBN 1-59486-211-7.
  2. ^ American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2018). Nancy Caroline's Emergency Care in the Streets,, Volume 1 and 2 - With Access - 8th edition. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 2035. ISBN 9781284104882.
  3. ^ Bhattacharya, Deepamala. "Braxton Hicks Contractions". Pregmed. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. ^ Dunn PM (1999). "John Braxton Hicks (1823-97) and painless uterine contractions". Arch. Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed. 81 (2): F157–8. doi:10.1136/fn.81.2.F157. PMC 1720982. PMID 10448189.