Braxton Hicks contractions are sporadic uterine contractions; also known as false labor or ‘practice’ contractions.
These contractions of the uterus actually start to happen as early as 6 weeks gestation, however they may be quite undetectable by the mother until the second, or most typically the third trimester.
Not every pregnant women experience Braxton Hicks contractions. These kinds of contractions are unusually painless, irregular, sporadic and infrequent.
These are the contractions that are thought to prepare the uterus and the body for the actual imminent birth of the baby. Here, the muscles of the uterus tighten for a minute or two before relaxing and are thought to be helpful in effacing the cervix in preparation of the birth.
Things as simple as a full bladder or sometimes more serious situation such as dehydration can trigger these contractions. They can be helped by proper hydration and regular emptying of the bladder. These contractions can be helped by certain breathing exercises, and lying down in certain positions.
Strong Braxton Hicks contractions, particularly when they occur closer to the time of delivery can often are mistaken for real labor. However, these can be distinguished from real labor by the fact that they are painless and that they are less noticeable during exercise, unlike the onset of real labor.