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The Pre-Game Show

“Braxton Hicks.  That sounds like a Civil War general or a ball player,” Serge laughs about the current bane of my existence.  But it’s no laughing matter, dammit!

To be fair, he isn’t laughing at me, he’s laughing at the term.  But still!  I can’t take these contractions another second.

Braxton Hicks contractions can be described as tightening in the abdomen that comes and goes.  They’re typically not painful and do not occur at regular intervals.  They happen throughout your pregnancy, but you probably won’t start noticing them until your third trimester, if at all.  They get their name from John Braxton Hicks, an English doctor who first described them in 1872.

They didn’t really bother me when I was pregnant with Violet.  Essentially, they’re painless or maybe slightly uncomfortable.  But man, oh man,  I’ve been having massive Braxton Hicks contractions for months now.  And these?  Well, I wouldn’t call them painless.  They’ve been happening something like ten times a day.  At least!  My stomach feels like a bowling ball and every time they strike I feel like I have to puke or pee.

My doctor says it’s no big deal, but it kind of sucks to have to waddle to the work restroom twenty times a day, clutching my stomach and ultimately peeing out my usual two teaspoons of pee.  Sometimes I’ll be washing my hands after utilizing the facilities and have to pee again.  It’s a nightmare.  I know the location of every restroom in every building we frequent.  Serge knows the drill well.  Generally, the minute we walk into any store, we head right for the restroom and then again right before we leave.  I’m more intimate with the facilities at every Wal-mart across the Salt Lake Valley than I care to mention.

I Googled a couple tips to help make Braxton Hicks more comfortable in these last few weeks before my due date:

  • Change position or maybe take a walk.  Or just rest on your side.
  • Take a warm bath to help your body relax.  (I’ve been turning on the shower and then sitting in the tub when  my contractions are really bad.)
  • Try drinking a couple of glasses of water, since these contractions can sometimes be brought on by dehydration.
  • Slow, deep breathing also helps.  It won’t stop the Braxton Hicks contractions, but it helps with the discomfort.

By the time you’re within a couple of weeks of your due date, your contractions may get more intense and more frequent, and they may cause some discomfort. Unlike the earlier painless and sporadic Braxton Hicks contractions, which caused no obvious cervical changes, these contractions may help your cervix “ripen” and maybe even dilate a bit.  But if you’re past 37 weeks, there’s no need to call your doctor or midwife until they last about 60 seconds each and are five minutes apart — unless your caregiver has advised you otherwise.

If you’re worried about mistaking Braxton Hicks contractions for real labor, here are a couple tips (and more fancy bullet points!):

  • Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and don’t get closer together.  Real contractions come at regular intervals and, as time goes on, get closer together.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions may stop when you walk or change positions.  Real contractions continue no matter what you do.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are usually weak.  Real contractions slowly get stronger.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are usually only felt in the stomach.  Real contractions often start in your lower back and move to the stomach.

I’ll tell you what, I’m going to feel awfully relieved when my Braxton Hicks contractions turn out to be real labor.  I’m at the point where this baby can’t come soon enough.  I’m swiftly closing in on that 37 week mark, so bring it on!

Photo Credit:  David Buffington/GettyImages

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