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Who ever said that you will only get contractions when you go into labor? The uterus starts contracting around six weeks into pregnancy, actually! Because your uterus will still be small and hidden in your pelvic cavity at that time, you will not be able to feel these contractions yet. Most pregnant women will first notice contractions at some time during their second trimester. These contractions are called Braxton-hicks contractions (after the doctor who first wrote about them, of course!) and they are painless. What exactly are Braxton-hicks contractions, and what do they feel like?

Braxton-hicks contractions are uterine contractions that do not make your cervix dilate or your baby descend into the birth canal. But that does not make these contractions utterly pointless. They are sometimes described as practice contractions, because your uterus is doing a warm-up round while preparing for the real thing. Braxton-hicks contractions tend to increase in frequency after strenuous exercise or (yes, this might be too much information but you will find out for yourself any way!) sexual intercourse. They normally disappear after a few minutes or with a change in position.

How can you recognize Braxton-hicks contractions?

When you are having a Braxton-hicks contractions, your uterus will turn into a firm ball, which you can easily feel. Braxton-hicks contractions do give you a bit of a strange feeling, unlike anything you have ever experienced before, but they do not hurt. The first time you will notice Braxton-hicks contractions, your uterus will probably still be relatively small, and you will feel like you have a small ball in your abdominal cave. In the first trimester, as you approach term, Braxton-hicks contractions will involve your whole belly and might start to get a bit more uncomfortable. If you are nearing your due date and your contractions seem to have a noticeable pattern, and are moving closer together, those are probably early labor contractions. It is a good idea to time the contractions you are having, so that you can get a clearer idea about what is going on.

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