Let me tell you about the time I experienced my first Braxton Hicks (BH) Contraction. I was on my lunch break when I began to feel intense tightening in my stomach; much different than the usual kicks and punches I had grown accustomed to. I got really nervous when the tightening became increasingly painful and frequent. I’m the type to tough things out, probably more than I should. Like, if I have a toothache, I probably won’t go to the dentist until something is swelling. I know. So, I debated whether to go back to work thinking I didn’t want to over-react to a false alarm or head straight to the doctor’s office so that if the pain increased and this was the real thing, at least I’d be at the hospital in the care of someone who knows what they’re doing. I called the doctor’s office, explained what was happening and they told me I should go to the hospital right away… great. I sat in the care for what seemed like an eternity but was really only 20 minutes because I was timing the contraction intervals. As the pain intensified and contractions increased, I decided I needed to go to the hospital. The called work. So, what’s worse than talking to someone when YOU’RE in a panic? When the person you’re talking to begins to panic! Here I was trying to remain calm and simply tell them that I was not returning to work and the person I was talking to elevated her voice and began saying things like, “Are you okay?”, “Why don’t you pull over and I’ll send someone to pick you up”, bless her helpful heart but all I wanted to do was hang up the phone and call Jonathan. I refused whatever help it was she was trying to offer and ended the call. Panic turned to fear and I cried. I hadn’t even thought of the fact that I probably shouldn’t be driving. I needed to call Jonathan. But before that I needed to calm down. If I called him panicked, he’d panic. I dialed. The phone rang. He picked up. Using every ounce of confidence I could muster into my voice, I began to tell him that I was on my way to the hospital. Then the flood gates released and I cried to the point that he couldn’t understand what I was telling him. Not only was I a slobbery mess, but the pain was steadily increasing and I knew I needed to do something. Jonathan figured out what I was telling him and meet me at the hospital. I was SO happy to see him. The nurses hooked me up to the monitor, they checked to see how dilated I was. In short, they told me it was going home because what I was experiencing was Braxton Hicks Contractions. Toni who? Right!
To prevent a super-freakout-meltdown I offer you some insight to BH Contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions start about 6 weeks into your pregnancy, but you won’t be able to feel them that early. You probably won’t start to notice them until sometime after mid-pregnancy, if you notice them at all since some women don’t. They get their name from John Braxton Hicks, an English doctor who first described them in 1872. Sometimes, BH contractions are hard to distinguish from early signs of preterm labor. If you haven’t hit 37 weeks yet and you’re having more than four contractions in an hour, or you have any other signs of preterm labor you should call your doctor right away.
By the time you’re within a couple of weeks of your due date, your cervix has likely begun to soften up in preparation for labor. Your contractions may get more intense and more frequent, and they may cause some discomfort. Unlike the earlier painless and sporadic BH contractions, which caused no obvious cervical changes, these contractions may help your cervix thin out (efface) and maybe even open up (dilate) a bit. This period is sometimes referred to as pre-labor. The main difference between BH Contractions and the real thing is BH contractions don’t grow consistently longer, stronger, closer together, and there will not be any progress when it comes to cervix dilation where as labor contractions do.
The truth is, there really isn’t a way to make them “go away” but you can decrease the discomfort until they stop on their own. Try changing your sitting position. If you’re standing, go sit down. If you’re sitting, try getting up and walking around slowly a few paces. For me getting down on all fours in the child’s pose (yoga) is most comfortable. It always eases the pain. Some other things you can try are taking a warm bath to relax your body. You can also try drinking a glass of water, as some BH contractions are brought on by dehydration.
A word to the wise, don’t try to be a super hero. Call your doctor right away if you haven’t reached 37 weeks and your contractions are becoming more frequent, or painful, or if you have any of the possible signs of preterm labor:
- Abdominal pain (menstrual-like cramping) or more than four contractions in one hour, even if they don’t hurt.
- Any bleeding or spotting
- Increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge — if it becomes watery, mucusy, or bloody even if it’s only pink or blood-tinged
- More pressure in the pelvic area; a feeling that your baby’s pushing down
- Low back pain, especially if it’s dull or rhythmic, or you didn’t previously have back pain
If you’re past 37 weeks and you haven’t experienced the above 5 signs, go to the hospital when your contractions last about 60 seconds each and are five minutes apart for an hour straight, unless your doctor has advised you otherwise.
You know that feeling when you get a charlie horse in your thigh and it just seems to tense up really strongly and then fade and then come back? That, except the pain is in your uterus. Not all BH contractions are that painful but as your pregnancy goes on they will intensify. Depending on your pain tolerance, they may or may not bother you. Here’s one way to understand the experience of contractions. Take a piece of ice from the freezer and squeeze it in the palm of your hand. You’ll notice a few things. The sensation doesn’t start off as pain, it’s more of a discomfort. The longer you squeeze the ice, the greater the sensation becomes and changes from discomfort to pain. Keep squeezing the ice and the pain becomes deep and throbbing. Soon, all you can think about is getting the ice out of your hand. The experience of labor contractions is very similar in the course it takes, only it’s intensified and usually comes in waves. BH Contractions are typically not as painful as labor contractions but they are a good indicator of what the experience will be like.
While I don’t want to bore you with the details of my experience, I thought that since I’ve now had 3 children, I can at least tell you a little bit about what worked for me.
My biggest fear has always been getting to the hospital too late to get an epidural. I’ve just heard nightmares. With Jaxon, I was fortunate not to have to think about it because my water broke while I was at home which meant that I would not be sent back home for a false alarm. That was my other concern. The contractions were not intense at all but when the nurse asked me on a scale from 1 t 10 how intense were they I remembered some advice I had been given to always say 6 or higher. LOL So, I said 6. She asked if I was going to want an epidural. Absolutely. She checked to see how dilated I was and the baby’s station. It was slow going. She let me know that they were going to give me pitocin, which speeds up the contractions and makes them stronger. She also said she was going to have the epidural administered at the same time. The pitocin kicked in and I was desperate for the epidural. Finally, the guy came in to give me the epidural which seemed like took forever, but in human time it was probably 5 minutes. Once he was done, I could feel the fluids enter my body and I was pretty much out. I had to cover my mouth from talking because I knew I wasn’t making any sense whatsoever. I laid down and dozed off. What seemed like 1o minutes later, the nurse came in because I guess something was beeping at her station. She checked me and said let’s call her doctor she’s ready to have a baby. Wait, WHAT? Jon woke up just as she said that and he was calmly freaking out. I still didn’t feel any pain but I did feel an incredible desire to push. Like I had to go to the potty. The nurse told me not to push. Come on, really? So there I am, wanting to push but can’t. The doctor comes in and we exchange pleasantries. She checks things, tells me to push about three times and before I knew it baby Jaxon was here.
Each of my pregnancies were similar once I got to the hospital. The biggest difference was with Julia and Jayde my water didn’t break so make the decision to go to the hospital was strictly based on me timing my contractions. Around 37 weeks, contractions are no longer BH. The baby will be coming out so I pay attention to each contraction, the intensity and the length pretty carefully.
I hope this is helpful for someone. Just talking about it was helpful for me. LOL God, help this delivery to be just as wonderful as my previous three. Bless the doctor’s hands and minds so that they give us the best care for our baby. Continue to allow this pregnancy to be an experience that I look back fondly on. In Jesus’ name! Amen.