It is often seen that during pregnancy, many women complain of pain and contractions that they feel right from the first trimester until the woman actually goes into labor. These transient contractions of the uterus are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions during the initial stages are so mild that the woman may not even feel them or realize that they are occurring, as the uterine wall only contracts a little bit. However, as time passes, these contractions become stronger in intensity due to the action of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for instigating labor.
Differentiating Factors Between Braxton Hicks and Real Contractions
The pain of Braxton Hicks contractions is very mild and only transient in nature compared to real contractions. This is so because, after the contractions occur, they do not increase the intensity of pain, as they are only mild contractions of the uterine wall that are spurted by an increase in the levels of oxytocin on a temporary basis. However, labor pain not only is quite severe in intensity, but also goes on increasing in intensity, right until childbirth.
The duration of contractions remains constant in Braxton Hicks whereas the duration of contractions during labor goes on progressively increasing in intensity and time period. Thus, if initially the contractions lasted for a few seconds, then they will eventually go on to increase in duration to half a minute, or a minute or two.
The pressure exerted by Braxton Hicks contractions is very mild and rarely affects or puts pressure on the surrounding areas. However, labor pain not only causes pain, but also causes buildup of pressure on the cervix and the vagina as it tries to push the baby further towards the birth canal. Furthermore, these contractions continue to get stronger, and the pressure also goes on increasing, irrespective of the position of the woman.
The frequency of contractions do not go on increasing in cases of Braxton Hicks as they occur regularly over a prolonged period of time. However, labor contractions keep increasing in frequency as the time for delivery draws nearer. Thus, if initially the labor contractions were occurring after every half an hour, as the delivery time draws nearer, they will increase in frequency to about every fifteen minutes to every few minutes.
Sometimes, when the Braxton Hicks contractions occur in the last trimester, women often mistake them for labor pain, and so, they rush to the hospital only to realize that it was a ‘false alarm’. Therefore the aforementioned factors will help you know when your little bundle of joy is all set to come into the world.