The uterus, as with the rest of the organs involved in pregnancy, is trained during pregnancy to withstand labor.
For this reason, from week 20 (even earlier) the future mother can notice how her gut contracts and hardens at times. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions , named after the doctor who first described them in 1872.
They should not scare you, because not only do they not pose a danger to the pregnancy, but they are necessary : it softens the cervix and prepares it for the real contractions that will help the baby to pass through the uterus at the time of delivery.
What is the function of these ‘false’ contractions
According to the American Pregnancy Association , these physiological contractions help tone the uterine muscle, softening the cervix and facilitating blood flow to the placenta.
They intensify more as the time of delivery approaches, so they also help to dilate and efface the cervix , even by 3-4 centimeters.
They are important, since it allows you to reach the delivery with those centimeters of advantage, facilitating the work.
In fact, Braxton Hicks contractions are even noted as the first stage of labor , the phase of early or latent dilatation .
How are they different from normal labor contractions?
They differ from labor contractions in that they encompass the entire uterus, starting at the top and gradually spreading downward.
They are painless, although they can be somewhat annoying , since the woman notices how her abdomen hardens and a certain abdominal tension. They are also not regular and last less (between 30 and 60 seconds).
But as the pregnancy progresses, these contractions become more frequent and longer lasting, even painful one or two weeks before giving birth.
They are known as antepartum contractions or prodromes of labor . They differ from those of childbirth:
- They occur rhythmically, but not regularly . That is, there may be three or four contractions with discomfort and sometimes even pain at similar intervals, but intermittently.
- They do not increase in intensity, duration, or frequency , as occurs in the dilation phase of labor where contractions are very regular: they happen every 2 or 3 minutes and each last 90 or 120 seconds.
The American Pregnancy Association points out that they may appear more frequently :
- When the mother is more active.
- If someone touches your belly.
- When the bladder is full.
- After having sex .
- If the woman needs to drink water.
How to relieve discomfort?
If you notice that your abdomen tenses:
- Rest and relax, changing position . That is, lie on one side if you are standing or go for a walk if you are sitting or lying down.
- Take a hot shower for about 30 minutes.
- Drink a couple of glasses of water, as contractions can be caused by lack of hydration.
- Drink an infusion or a glass of hot milk to relax.
And go to the doctor if:
- You have more than 4 contractions per hour before your 36th week of pregnancy or more than 5 contractions after your 36th week.
- If you feel contractions accompanied by abdominal, back or pelvic pain.
- Contractions accompanied by any type of unusual vaginal discharge .
- History of preterm birth .