Braxton Hicks and Subsequent PregnanciesSo, I’m on my third pregnancy and I’m dying to know: Am I the only one totally and completely confused by Braxton Hicks contractions? They’re driving me crazy. Sending me into anxious fits. Interrupting loads of work that need to be done before the baby comes. Even sending me to the hospital for monitoring.
The thing is, I’ve done this before. Twice. By now you’d think I’d have practice contractions down. By now, you’d think I wouldn’t even bat an eye when my uterus suddenly contracts in the middle of my 33rd week. But here’s the thing. Braxton Hicks contractions have been different for me during every pregnancy. Every. Single. Pregnancy.
For my first pregnancy, I wasn’t even sure I ever had them. I certainly never had them regularly. I had intermittent cramping that felt similar to light menstrual cramps toward the last few weeks of my pregnancy, but my belly always felt hard to me and I never felt my uterus contract all over. Then, my daughter was late and I was induced and I never discovered what contractions without intervention really felt like.
When I was pregnant with my son, Braxton Hicks came loud and clear starting at 20 weeks gestation. They didn’t hurt, they just existed a couple of times a day at an ever increasing rate from 20 weeks until the time I went into labor. After my midwife assured me that this was normal, I found myself amused by them. They rarely hurt until the end of the pregnancy, and then only somewhat. Even when labor started, I only had light Braxton Hicks – type contractions that lasted 30 seconds every 10 minutes. It was a very relaxing morning just waiting through them and calling my midwife every hour to let her know that they were still only 10 minutes apart and not very painful. Of course, they turned painful, but that was only when I had 2 or 3 hours of labor left.
With this pregnancy, I have had Braxton Hicks since 20 weeks, just like with my son, only they’re painful. Starting at around 32 weeks, I found myself having bouts of contractions that were 10 minutes apart and lasted about 30 seconds each. These were as painful as the early labor I experienced with my second pregnancy. I freaked out and called my midwives while trying to rest and downing as many ounces of water as I could handle in a 60 minute period. The thought of having a baby so early was scary. After the first time it happened and was cured with water and rest, I didn’t call the midwives when it happened again. I just rolled my eyes, grabbed my water bottle (which I made my poor, 6 year old daughter refill for me every 5 or 10 minutes) and laid on the couch with a book or some Netflix: usually Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so my 2 year old son would get distracted and wouldn’t try to use my belly as a trampoline. Then, came the couple of times that the rest and water didn’t take away the contractions. There was one spell of ten minute apart contractions that lasted maybe 20 hours straight. I was ready to go to the hospital to be monitored when they finally stopped. Turns out my uterus didn’t like super spicy chili right before bed. Two days ago it happened again, only it didn’t go away with a bath or water or a rest, or lavender essential oil rubbed on my belly and I hadn’t eaten the chili this time. These contractions were regular, persistent, and slightly painful, just like the beginning labor I experienced with my son. By the time I finally decided to call my midwife, I was in tears. “I don’t want to go into labor at 35 weeks!” I sobbed to her.
“Why don’t you come in to get monitored, if for nothing else, then for your peace of mind,” she said calmly. “We don’t normally stop labor at 35 weeks because we figure that if your body wants the baby out, there must be a reason. Still, I don’t think you’re in labor.” I gathered the kids and packed them hospital suitcases while waiting for my hubby to get home from work. I put on Dinosaur Train and rested until he got there, and we dropped the kids off at a friend’s house on the way to the hospital and were there about an hour and a half after I made the call. At the hospital I was strapped to the bed with the familiar blue and pink bands around my belly that measure the fetal heart rate and my contractions. I had to lay in a semi- reclined position drinking lots of water for an hour (it was actually more than that) while the nurse and my sweet midwife monitored me. Halfway into the ordeal, the midwife checked my cervix. It was completely closed and still very high: completely unchanged. That coupled with what looked like very small and irregular contractions on the monitor proved that I really was just experiencing Braxton Hicks…only they were painful. They got so painful at points that laying there in the hospital I had sudden flashbacks to how awful intense labor contractions really are.
I loved my son’s all natural birth, and yet I was suddenly terrified of experiencing it again strapped there in the dim room surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the maternity ward. When all was said and done, my midwife basically said that since my uterus is more stretched out and tired now, it is probably more easily irritated by an active baby, and the contractions just hurt more because it is my third pregnancy. She says that having so many painful contractions this early on may turn out to be helpful in the long run, as my labor might be considerably shortened. In any case, when she sent me home and I knew for sure that my baby wasn’t leaving my womb any time soon, I was considerably comforted and the contractions finally stopped sometime on the way to pick up our kids.
I’ve always heard that each pregnancy is different, but it never occurred to me when I started having babies that my body would react to them differently as well. I thought it was just each different baby that made the difference, not what previous babies had done to my body. I never thought about how a twice- used uterus might contract more strongly towards the end of a third pregnancy. I’d somehow come to a one sided agreement with my Braxton Hicks that I would always experience them a certain way. Now they have changed the game. When pregnant with both my first and my second, I wasn’t sure how I’d know when I was in labor. Again, I have to ask myself, “How will I know when I go into labor?” I really don’t know. It’s a guessing game. Again. And I’m okay with that.
Now that these spells of crazy Braxton Hicks have been monitored, I’m content knowing that all is well. The baby is healthy. I am healthy. He or she will come when it’s his or her time and it will all be okay. I’m thanking God for each day and each week this precious little one bakes in my belly and in a few short weeks I will be feeling the opposite about having long spells of contractions!