Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pregnancy Vocabulary : B—Braxton Hicks

At various times during pregnancy, sometimes starting around 20 weeks, the body practices contractions. Known as Braxton Hicks, these contractions occur randomly. They may be uncomfortable but they're not usually painful—and they don't dilate and efface the cervix as real contractions do.

Braxton-Hicks contractions are basically practice contractions, and are the body's way of preparing for labour. Some experts believe that they help to thin and soften the cervix, which is necessary for birth.

A woman experiencing a Braxton-Hicks contraction will feel irregular and infrequent tightening of her uterus, which will last between one and two minutes. They occur on a totally random and sporadic basis, and their unpredictability makes them different to regular contractions.

Although they start at around six weeks of pregnancy, a woman will not normally feel a Braxton-Hicks contraction until the third trimester, but it is possible to feel them sooner than this. Additionally, while many women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, it is not unusual for a women to bypass this experience altogether. Braxton-Hicks can feel quite uncomfortable, although some women do say they can be painful and can feel like the real thing.

However, they differ from true labour contractions as they will often go away if a woman changes activity, such as getting up from sitting down, or going for a walk. Labour contractions cannot be halted by these types of measures. Braxton-Hicks are a part of pregnancy and therefore not a cause for concern. However, if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as bleeding, loss of water or a slowing down in your baby's movements, you must seek immediate medical help.

As early as six weeks into all pregnancies, the uterus, which is a large muscle, begins to contract rhythmically. These contractions (called Braxton Hicks contractions or `False labor`) are usually irregular and painless. Because they usually do not cause the cervix to dilate, they do not threaten the pregnancy. They generally last about one to two minutes. While these contractions might be noticed during the second half of pregnancy, some women don't notice them at all.

Throughout the pregnancy, the uterus periodically contracts to facilitate better blood flow through the placenta and the foetus. Braxton Hicks contractions help to strengthen the uterine muscles and prepare them for the normal labour process.

3) Management

(a) Determine the frequency and duration of the contractions.

(b) Expectant mothers are encouraged to rest on their side.

(c) Deep, relaxing breathing.

4) Indicators to refer the client to your OB care provider.

(a) Contractions coming with any regular frequency or occurring within 20 minutes of each other should be reported.

(b) Severe pain should be referred to your OB care provider.

(c) Any gush or leaking of fluid from the vagina is an indication that your OB care provider should be called.

(d) Blood showing in vaginal secretions should be referred to your OB care provider.

(e) Burning or pain during urination need to be discussed as well.

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