Whether you're on your first, second or fifth pregnancy, the start of contractions are both a relief (that the pregnancy will be over soon) and excitement (you'll get to meet your baby soon). But what happens if they start in the second trimester or weaken then go away? You can't time them because one time they came two minutes apart, then waited over twenty minutes. If you have never had Braxton Hicks contractions (or even read anything about them), it may be enough to freak you out but more than likely, your "contractions" are just false labor contractions (otherwise known as Braxton Hicks).
What are Braxton Hicks?
Braxton-Hicks contractions are called "practice" contractions. They can start around the second trimester and are typically considered normal. If you get up and move, they are supposed to calm down and typically just feel like a tightening in your abs or very light period cramps.
Braxton Hicks contractions come with no real reason, typically after an active day but they may also go away when you're active. They remain the same intensity and never get stronger, they also tend to leave when you pee or change positions.
What are real contractions?
Real contractions do not let up, in fact, they get worse when you start being more active. They are typically painful, anywhere from mild period cramps to severe cramping. Real contractions are a sign that labor will start and need to be taken very seriously.
Real contractions are there to prep your body (dilate your cervix) and push the baby down to get ready for labor. They start out far apart but are always stable.
There are times Braxton Hicks are mislabeled. Some people may have real contractions labeled as Braxton Hicks and dismissed. They can even go as far as dismissing real labor, so it's always wise to actually go into to labor and delivery to get checked instead of making a phone call.
What are the causes?
The causes of Braxton Hicks contractions are not too well known, but it's pretty accepted that they help prep the muscles for delivery. While contractions dilate the cervix, false labor contractions don't. They may help wear down the cervix, but no dilation takes place because of the contractions themselves.
Possible triggers of Braxton Hicks include a full bladder, engaging in intercourse, being active or being dehydrated.
Everyone who has been pregnant knows the causes of real contractions, they are caused by the baby getting ready to enter the world! Hydramnios (too much fluid building up), certain medical conditions (like Pre-Eclampsia or infections), cervical incompetence and many other factors can cause pre-term labor.
In the end, you'll be the only one who will be able to tell if you're having real or false contractions. If you're at all unsure it never hurts to run into labor and delivery to make sure you're not in pre-term labor. Of course, always consult your doctor with at least a phone call to determine the cause of your contractions.