Braxton Hicks isn't a reality show star, a football hero, or a cute lingerie brand. It's pregnancy contractions—and here's when it starts, how painful it is and everything else you need to know.

By Holly Pevzner
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Long story short, Braxton Hicks is a fire drill. They are practice contractions, aka "false labor," when your uterus starts to rehearse for the big performance. She's warming up her muscles, if you will.

Now that we have that cleared up, here are 10 more things you didn’t know about Braxton Hicks contractions, but are going to want to learn if you’re pregnant.

1. Braxton Hicks start around 20 weeks.

They usually last for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. However, they may come earlier (and be more intense) if you’ve been pregnant before.

2. It feels sort of like period pain.

BH contractions can be more menstrual cramp-like than holy-#%&-a-baby-is-exiting-me-like. Your baby bump will periodically tighten up, become hard, then go back to normal. It feels kinda freaky, but it's nothing to freak out over.

3. It's pattern-free.

False labor refuses to follow any predictable pattern. The contractions are random. Honest-to-goodness labor contractions, however, occur regularly, increasing in intensity and frequency. (When in doubt, bust out the stopwatch or call your doc.)

4. Sex can stir it up.

Intercourse during the second half of pregnancy may trigger not-the-real-deal contractions. It seems that orgasms and the prostaglandins in semen can kick off these temporary uterine contractions. (Worth it!)

5. Drinking water helps.

Since dehydration may be a contributing factor to false labor, downing plenty of fluids can help put the kibosh on Braxton Hicks.

6. Full bladder is a trigger.

So you're drinking tons of water to help ease or sidestep Braxton Hicks—awesome! Just don't forget to pee, like, a lot. Having a too-full bladder can trigger false labor.

    7. They often arrive late in the day.

    False labor is not usually an early riser. Instead, it tends to be noticed at the end of the day, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It's thought that once the hustle-and-bustle of the day quiets, moms-to-be are simply more apt to tune into these mild contractions.

    8. They're different for baby number two.

    Detectable Braxton Hicks contractions can begin as early as the second trimester, around 20 weeks, but they are most commonly experienced in the third trimester. But during pregnancy number two (or three, or four...), they may kick in earlier and be more intense. The preggo pros are still scratching their heads about the whys here.

    9. Move it to stop it.

    One way to tell if your labor is, in fact, false is to change your activity. (Were you lounging on the sofa? Get up for a stroll.) Shifting your movement patterns can often put an end to BH contractions, as real contractions cannot be quelled like that.

    10. They lay the groundwork.

    It's thought that Braxton Hicks contractions may actually do some of the early work of labor by helping to soften and dilate your cervix.


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