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Braxton Hicks contractions may take a pregnant woman by surprise when they begin, and give her cause for alarm, but Braxton Hicks are a normal part of any pregnancy and are simply your body's way of practicing for the big event.
Braxton Hicks contractions occur infrequently throughout pregnancy and are usually felt as a mild tightening of the uterus and stomach muscles. During a Braxton Hicks contraction, your stomach may feel hard in some areas while remaining relaxed in others. The intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions grows as your baby's development puts more of a strain on your uterus.
How can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labor near the end of your pregnancy?
1. Braxton Hicks contractions should fade away if you get up and walk around. Real contractions intensify with mild exercise.
2. Test your contractions by taking a warm shower. If they're just Braxton Hicks contractions, the warm water will sooth and relax your uterine muscles, but real uterine contractions will become stronger and more frequent.
3. Dehydration can bring on symptoms of premature labor. Try drinking several glasses of water to see if your contractions go away. This remedy is usually sufficient to calm Braxton Hicks contractions, but real labor pains are not going to go away with hydration.
4. If your contractions are intensifying in strength, lasting for approximately 60 seconds and coming about 5 minutes apart, or a strong contraction cause your water to break it's definitely time to call your OB and get to the hospital, because you're about to have a baby.
Braxton Hicks contractions prepare your body for the real event, but hopefully you can now better distinguish between Braxton Hicks contractions and real labor pains.