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What are Braxton Hicks contractions and what is their purpose?

Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular contractions that happen even in very early pregnancy. As early as four to eight weeks, the uterus is noticed to exhibit very lowpressure, irregular contractions maybe five to 20 a day. Most of the time they’re not detected. When most women reach maybe 24 to 28 weeks, they will actually feel these contractions. Again, they’re not painful; they’re very low in pressure. Women typically notice a tightening that quickly passes.

The cause is not well known. We know that they’re there and no cervical change occurs with them, so it’s not preterm labor. Braxton Hicks contractions actually increase in frequency during late pregnancy. So at around 36 to 40 weeks, most women will notice they’re much more frequent, but without any specific pattern and without pain.