Braxton-Hicks Contractions: What Do They Feel Like?

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like? Every time I get on a treadmill or stationary bike my tummy gets real hard. It is uncomfortable, but not painful. Are these Braxton-Hicks contractions?

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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

The uterus, for reasons we only guess at, contracts and relaxes even when we are not pregnant. During pregnancy, these contractions become more apparent. They feel like the abdomen is stretching and becoming taut, and you can actually feel that the uterus is more firm than it would be at rest.

These contractions happen more frequently when you are active or when the baby moves, or even with changes in position.

Usually women don't experience many Braxton-Hicks contractions until the second trimester and they seem to increase in frequency in the third.

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.

As you exercise, the uterine muscle fibers are stimulated and they contract. It would not be necessary to stop exercising unless you are at risk for pre-term labor or are having the associated symptoms.

Risks 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
-- Multi-fetal gestation

Try resting on your side after every exercise period. The contractions should subside within a few minutes. If they don't, or if you experience any of the other symptoms, or at risk for preterm labor, it's important to contact your care provider.

As an aside: The medical establishment has begun to discourage the use of the term Braxton-Hicks contractions because it was felt that women would disregard contractions which were changing the cervix, thus ignoring signs and symptoms of pre-term labor.

Read More: 12 things you need to know about painful Braxton-Hicks contractions.

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