What Are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
The final weeks of pregnancy for intended parents can be incredibly exciting, but also filled with anxiety. Both you and your surrogate are likely to be in examination mode, attempting to decode every twinge she feels in anticipation of the big day. Part of this process will generally include something called Braxton Hicks contractions.
These contractions, named for the doctor who first described them, are not to be confused with real labor contractions. While they can be just as intense as real labor contractions, they are just the uterus “practicing” in preparation for the real labor that is forthcoming.
These practice contractions can begin as early as 6 weeks into the pregnancy, though they’re not usually felt until the late second or third trimesters. They are rarely a cause for concern. They can be triggered by any number of things and are often associated with dehydration, an overly active day, sex, or a full bladder.
The most general way to tell if a contraction is a real labor contraction or a false labor contraction is with consistent monitoring. There are many apps available for both Apple and Android smartphones that can allow your surrogate to monitor the frequency and duration of her contractions. On some apps, your surrogate can send you a report of her recordings via email.
Contractions that indicate real labor will be cyclical, occurring at a predictable interval, and building in strength and duration over the course of several hours. These contractions will not be made less intense by walking, increasing fluids, or resting. These contractions are working on opening the cervix and preparing the body for delivery.
Conversely, Braxton Hicks contractions occur sporadically and will likely taper off in intensity and frequency over the course of several hours. Often times they will stop entirely with moderate walking, an increase in fluids, or rest. These contractions are not causing a change to the cervix and will not lead to a birth.
Remember that your surrogate has experienced childbirth before, and likely has experience with both true and false labor contractions. Generally, you do not need to contact your OB/GYN unless the contractions are occurring 4 or more times per hour or become cyclical or stronger in intensity.