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Pregnancy Woes: Braxton Hicks Contractions
Preparing For Labor
I read about Braxton Hicks Contractions weeks before I started having them. Medical research shows that you start having them at six weeks, but you don't feel them until later in pregnancy, second trimester, third even. But not all people will feel them, something that every article was sure to point out even though they should know that if we're looking them up, it's because we're feeling them. My sister, for example, went through her entire pregnancy without feeling a single Braxton Hicks contractions and I'm envious of her for that. Most people don't report feeling them until their third trimester anyway. So when I was doing my research I figured I'd have a while to go before I even had to worry about them. Imagine my surprise when I got my first before then. When, you ask?
Eighteen weeks. I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions before I regularly felt my baby move! At first they only came once every couple days and they weren't uncomfortable, they just felt weird. My stomach would harden and about thirty seconds later it would return to its previous softened condition. I did more research because now that I was getting them, I had to be careful they weren't going to do any harm to my unborn child.
The internet turned up a myriad of results. People said that the contractions helped prepare a person for labor. Sometimes they could dilate you, but that didn't usually happen until 37 weeks. To tell the difference between a Braxton Hicks contraction and a real one all I had to do was acknowledge if there was any pain. Discomfort was normal and yes, they would get more uncomfortable with time, but there would be a distinct difference between uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions and painful real contractions. Not to mention that unless they started having a pattern they weren't anything to worry about. They could be caused by a lot of things: needing to empty your bladder, dehydration, stress, working your body too hard, your baby moving around, and many other reasons. The internet told me I was good to go unless they were coming at more than four in an hour, painful or not, because who were they to know if I just didn't have a higher threshold for pain than most people and they were secretly dilating my cervix?
They Gradually Increase
At around twenty weeks I started having one contraction a day. It would often happen as I settled into bed for the night. My stomach would grow hard and stay that way, though for about forty five seconds now instead of their original thirty. I wasn't worried. It was only one contraction. But by twenty two weeks I was having four, sometimes five a day. They would come at various times and my doctor told me they were nothing to concern myself with. I was told to drink more water and stay off my feet, even though I'd quit my job and spent most of my time lying on the couch getting fat anyway.
One night at about twenty four weeks I got three painful contractions. They weren't like the other Braxton Hicks ones I'd had. They had a climax of pain and came twenty minutes after one another like clock-work. Just as I thought I was going to get my fourth, they went away. I stopped worrying because it didn't seem like they had done any damage. My son was still kicking just the same and I wasn't bleeding or leaking fluid, so I felt comfortable in my knowledge that it was just a one time thing. Maybe I'd just been cramping coincidentally at the same time. After all, they'd gone away. That had to be a good sign.
Within a week I started having upwards of ten Braxton Hicks contractions a day. By the time I went in for an appointment with my doctor at twenty five weeks I was asking if there was anything I could do. She just said that because I'm tiny I would probably feel them more than most people. Sometimes, when I had more than four in an hour, I got worried. She quelled my fears by saying that unless they changed and felt different there was nothing to worry myself sick about. I left that appointment feeling more confident that I was going to be alright. Then, as my husband and I got food and drove back to our place, I noticed three very tight, uncomfortable contractions. I might be doctorally cleared, but I knew that it wasn't going to change anything about the intensity or frequency.
Tomorrow marks my twenty eighth week of pregnancy and I have an appointment again on Wednesday. This time I don't plan to bring up my contractions, despite the fact that they have reached fifteen to twenty a day. I try to drink more water. I try to stay off my feet. I try to nourish myself properly and not stress myself out. But I'm still worried about how many of these contractions I'll be having daily by the end of my pregnancy and if they're doing anything to my body. My OB hasn't checked my cervix or run any tests, but I'm worried that one day I'm going to wake up in active labor because all these Braxton Hicks have been real and I've been ignoring them.
Overall though, I am almost glad that I've been having them. I know what to look out for when the real thing hits. This is my first time being pregnant and while I hear the pain is excruciating during actual contractions, I keep hoping that I'll be able to handle it like a champ. Not just because I don't want to be the screaming woman in the labor room that you see on tv, but because my husband and I are betting on this. Most of my fears during pregnancy have dealt with problems to my body or baby, not so much the giving birth part. My husband is convinced that once the pain kicks in I'll be yelling profanities at him and trying to bribe drugs out of the nurses. While I think I'll be perfectly ok because I've always been the rational one in emergencies. So despite the fact that these Braxton Hicks have a tiring effect on my body and are still increasing in frequency, I'm going to suck it up and put on my big girl panties.
The last thing I want to do is prove my husband right before I even go into labor.