Sharing moments Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared for military training Grassrooted Pack smarter, travel better Make an impression Contraception Vegan diet Bye bye Hotel Mum – hello shared flat Big trip, small budget Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Family rooms Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Baby care Breastfeeding When does a baby start eating? Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Vaccinations and travel first-aid kit Hay fever Everyday help In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Online addiction Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb E-numbers and other additives in food Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Home remedies: relief for sore gums Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Running training The first half marathon Training and heart rate Running Ticks Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Your back Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates Bauchübungen Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Wie viel Sport ist gesund Gathering mushrooms – the right way | Sanitas Magazine Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Gute Nacht! Drei Fragen, die uns den Schlaf rauben Outing The nature of lying Vorsorge Gute Gesundheitsinformation im Internet Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Three sleep apps reviewed PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien How drugs are developed Generics Sanitas newsletter
Dossier: Pregnancy

Braxton Hicks and false labour: preparing for the birth

Halfway through pregnancy, your belly may harden for a short time and you might feel a pulling sensation. These are Braxton Hicks contractions, which is your body’s way of preparing for real contractions and the birth.

Text: Helwi Braunmiller; photo: Unsplash

The first contractions can be a bit scary, because they start as early as halfway through your pregnancy, which is too early for your baby to be delivered. But don’t worry, these contractions are totally normal. Unlike in labour, the cervix doesn’t shorten or dilate. These Braxton Hicks or premonitory contractions are simply training the womb for the upcoming birth. Your muscles tense and then relax again. The contractions are triggered by various hormones, especially oestrogen, oxytocin and prostaglandins.

Common symptom: hardening of the belly

Braxton Hicks contractions often start around the 32nd week of pregnancy, and even earlier in any subsequent pregnancies. Some women don’t feel these contractions at all and only see them by chance on the cardiotocograph when they go to the gynaecologist for a check-up. Other women feel the practice contractions: unlike labour pains they aren’t painful, they are irregular and last less than half a minute.

The feeling you get is like tightening a wide belt. Your stomach hardens, tenses and may even take on an unusual shape. Sometimes the tension can be felt across the back and down your legs.

If your belly tightens very frequently, you should get some rest. Take a break and relax! If you’re still unsure, talk to your doctor or midwife. Many health insurers offer a telephone hotline exclusively for expectant mothers.

False labour: slowly preparing for the birth

Many mums-to-be feel the first false labour pains from the 36th week of pregnancy. These can last a little longer than Braxton Hicks contractions – up to a minute and over a period of up to three hours in regular intervals of more than 15 minutes. During these contractions women may also feel a pulling abdominal pain similar to menstrual pain, which can also radiate into the lower back.

During these contractions the baby’s head may sink lower into the true pelvis. This is often visible from the outside as the bump lowers. Women also often feel an uncomfortable sensation in their pelvic area or stabbing pains in the vagina.

Braxton Hicks contractions

  • Braxton Hicks contractions usually only last up to 30 seconds.
  • Relaxing and taking a warm bath can help reduce these early contractions (only take a bath if you’re not alone!). If the contractions get stronger when you’re in the bath, you’re experiencing real contractions.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions shouldn’t occur more than ten times a day or three times an hour.

False labour pains in the final month of pregnancy

  • False labour pains can last for up to a minute at a time
  • They may be felt over a period of up to three hours at intervals of more than 15 minutes.

Labour pains

  • Contractions that occur regularly every five to seven minutes lasting 30 to 60 seconds are real labour pains. Let your midwife know or go to the hospital.
  • Your waters breaking is a sure sign that the birth is imminent.