During the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy, you may notice times when your belly tightens and becomes firm to the touch and then relaxes. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Think of them as "warm-up" exercises for your uterus.
These contractions may be so mild that you rarely notice them. Or they may be strong enough to make you stop what you are doing.
You may begin to feel Braxton Hicks contractions between the 28th and 30th weeks of your pregnancy. But sometimes they start as early as the 20th week. You most likely will have more of these contractions during your ninth month.
It is often hard to tell the difference between true labor pains and Braxton Hicks contractions, especially in your first pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions:
- Tend to be irregular and vary in strength. They do not become more regular or stronger.
- Go away when you're active. (True labor pains may continue or increase during activity.)
- Are more noticeable when you rest.
- Occur less than 4 times an hour.
True labor pains tend to last longer, become stronger, and occur closer together than Braxton Hicks contractions.
If you are not sure what type of contractions you're having, talk to your doctor or midwife.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology