From the day you find out you're pregnant with your first baby, you begin wondering what labor will be like. How will it feel? Will you recognize it when it starts?
You may experience a type of contraction called Braxton Hicks which might make you wonder if you are going into labor. Braxton Hicks contractions feel like a tightening in your abdomen.
Uterine muscle contracts, usually for 30-60 seconds though they can last for up to two minutes. They might feel like menstrual cramps.
If you feel them as early as your second trimester they might be worrisome as well as uncomfortable. But they are not heralding an early labor.
Though Braxton Hicks contractions may start as early as the second trimester, onset is more common in the third. They may tone the uterine muscle and promote blood flow to the placenta.
These contractions are thought to help your body to prepare for your upcoming labor. It's doubtful that they are dilating the cervix though they may help it to soften if they occur close to the time the baby is due.
While you might mistake Braxton Hicks contractions for early labor, there are many differences between them and true labor.
Braxton Hicks contractions don't usually become very painful. They don't happen at consistent intervals as regular labor can. They don't begin to come closer together or get progressively stronger as time passes either. They don't get worse when you walk.
Braxton Hicks contractions can be kicked off by your full bladder, or by your dehydration. They can start up when you or your baby are quite active, or when your abdomen is touched. Sex can sometimes trigger the contractions.
If you have Braxton Hicks contractions there are a few things that may help ease them.
You might be doing too much. Get some rest and maybe even some sleep. A massage might help.
To ease your contractions, try changing positions. If you have been standing, maybe lying down will make a difference. If you have been sitting down, try going for a walk.
Apply warmth by taking a bath or using a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
Drink several glasses of water, in case the contractions were brought on by dehydration.