Braxton Hick information at iVillage Pregnancy & Parenting

I am due in three weeks and I'm having contractions that build until they are two to three minutes apart and last for 45 seconds. They are painful enough to keep me awake, and go on for up to 12 hours. Then they stop. This is my second pregnancy. I had a similar situation last time. Is this normal?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

Braxton-Hicks contractions are normal during the last month of pregnancy. The fact that they are painful probably has more to do with the "contents" of the pelvis than the uterus itself.

The growing baby impinges on bladder, bowel, ovaries, the bony pelvis and the spine, which all are richly-innervated structures.

My recommendation in the "old days" would be to take a glass of wine, which inhibits uterine contractions, but of course, we know now that there is no safe level of alcohol intake during pregnancy. Some herbal teas may produce a similar relaxing effect.

This recipe and the herb list is borrowed from a textbook of healing herbs called "The Complete Woman's Herbal" by Anne McIntyre.

3 parts skullcap or passionflower
1 part sliced fresh ginger
2 parts wild yam

Mix 1 oz (25 gm) of herb to a pint of boiling water. Infuse for 20 minutes. Take a cupful three times a day.

Other herbs can be equally effective as teas or dilute tinctures:

  • black haw
  • black cohosh
  • cramp bark

These all relax the uterus and the whole pelvic area. They are all excellent remedies, and recommended for the over-powerful contractions of the uterus -- both during pregnancy and after birth.

12 Things You Need to Know

1. Get lots of rest. The real danger of these contractions is that they can disrupt sleep, which saps a woman's energy for labor.

2. Go to sleep later than usual. Babies are sometimes at their most active in the early nighttime hours, so it may work to adjust your bedtime to later, after the greatest period of fetal activity.

3. Rest lying on your side. When on her back, the uterus is more irritable and contracts more frequently. Resting with eyes closed is almost as good as sleep.

4. Graze. Eat around the clock, eating only small amounts each time.

5. Try decreasing dietary fiber. A diet that encourages a minimal response from the colon will keep the bowel a bit more quiet. Even though fiber is very good for you, try to decrease dietary intake for a while to see if that helps.

6. Drink lots of fluids.

7. Keep the bladder empty.

8. Avoid any nipple stimulation.

9. Avoid hot baths.

10. Look at your work. If your job brings you into contact with infants, this can cause sympathetic reflex contractions.

11.Consider contractions part of labor preparation. Though Braxton Hicks contractions are annoying and can rob a woman of much-needed rest, they do much to help prepare the cervix for labor.

12. Rule out pre-term labor. When associated with lower back pain, cramping, any vaginal bleeding, spotting or watery discharge, pains in the legs or anything else unusual, they may indicate pre-term labor.

Risk factors for pre-term labor include:

  • History of pre-term labor
  • Any cervical changes
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Advancing maternal age
  • Hypertension or other maternal diseases
  • Substance use
  • Abuse
  • Multiple gestation.
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