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Braxton Hicks Cx | Glossary of Pregnancy & Baby Term

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  • Bambino Mio
  • 24 / 07 / 2023


Many pregnant women experience Braxton Hicks contractions (1), which usually become noticeable in the second half of their pregnancy and increase in frequency as labour gets nearer.


These mild uterine contractions are named after John Braxton Hicks, the 19th century English obstetrician who was the first person to describe them.

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like?

Braxton Hicks contractions are noticeable for most women and they feel like a tightening across your belly - you may be able to feel your abdomen going hard if you place your hands across it. They’re mild and irregular and each one usually lasts for less than 30 seconds. They can become uncomfortable and annoying, but they’re rarely painful.


You’ll probably get more BH contractions in your final few weeks and they may become stronger. Many women report that these practice contractions are more likely after exercise, sex and in the afternoons and evenings (2).

What do Braxton Hicks contractions do?

It’s believed that Braxton Hicks contractions help to tone up your uterine muscles and prepare your cervix for labour and birth (3).

How can I tell if it’s Braxton Hicks contractions or actual labour?

There are three main differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labour contractions. 

Braxton Hicks

Real labour


These contractions remain irregular in pattern

Labour contractions become regular, then closer together and stronger


Each practice contraction usually lasts less than 30 seconds 

As true contractions become established, they’ll last from 30 to 70 seconds


Braxton Hicks contractions often stop if you change position, start or stop exercise or eat and drink

True contractions carry on and intensify regardless of what you’re doing

If you think you’re in labour rather than having BH contractions, then check your hospital bag and call your midwife.

What can you do if your Braxton Hicks contractions are uncomfortable?

Some women find, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy, that their practice contractions are more intense. There are a few things you can do to relieve the discomfort:

  • Change your position or activity - if you’re resting, get up and walk, if you’re exercising, stop and rest
  • Dehydration might make BH contractions more uncomfortable, so drink a glass of water
  • Try a warm bath
  • Ask your partner for a massage
  • Practice your prenatal breathing exercises

Citations and References

  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH). National Library of Medicine. ‘Braxton Hicks Contractions.’ 2022. Web. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546
  2. WebMD. ‘Health & Pregnancy Guide. Braxton Hicks.’ 2022. Web. www.webmd.com/baby/true-false-labor
  3. National Institutes of Health (NIH). National Library of Medicine. ‘Braxton Hicks Contractions.’ 2022. Web. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546