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Who the heck is Braxton Hicks?

08/09/2011

If you’re like me and have not had much exposure to pregnant women, you have probably also never heard of Braxton Hicks contractions. In fact, I hadn’t heard about them until I read a friend’s blog about 3 weeks before they started for me (in Week 27 of my pregnancy). So what are Braxton Hicks contractions and for that matter, who the heck is Braxton Hicks?

After some research, I’m sorry to report that Mr. Hicks’ first name was actually not Braxton, it was John… as in John Braxton Hicks. Though according to Baby Name Wizard (see previous post for details on my love affair with that website), the name Braxton sprung into Firstnameland in the 1970s and has risen steadily to rank 171st in the US in 2010. I’m sure his parents would have been proud, as would he, but since his research was performed in the 1870s, it is highly unlikely that he was around to witness his name make it into the first name club.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Braxton Hicks contractions are your body’s way of “warming up” for the big day. They are occasional, weak (though sometimes less on the weak side) contractions of the uterus which materialize in a tightening feeling in the abdomen for a minute or two at a time. In my case, they made my stomach really hard for a minute or so, then there was a release feeling like after you tense up a muscle and let go. I wouldn’t call them comfortable per se, but I also wouldn’t call them painful. Simply shifting positions is supposed to help if you are uncomfortable and upping your fluids is supposed to reduce the number of Braxton Hicks contractions you have. Mine seemed to arrive in swarms where I’d feel 3-5 during a several hour period, then I wouldn’t feel them again for several days. If they become frequent or regular, call your doctor because you might be in actual labour, not “false labour” which is another term for Braxton Hicks contractions.

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