Feeling your belly tighten up while you’re pregnant? Don’t worry – this is likely Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labor. These practice contractions are perfectly normal, even as early as 28 weeks pregnant. Keep reading to learn more about Braxton Hicks contractions, how many are normal, and when to call your doctor.
What are Braxton Hicks Contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions, named after the doctor who first described them in the 1870s, are sporadic tightening of the uterus during pregnancy. Many pregnant women describe the feeling as the belly “balling up” or getting tense and hard.
These practice contractions start as early as the second trimester. They allow the uterus to tone and prepare itself for true labor later on. Braxton Hicks contractions are often painless, or may feel like mild menstrual cramps.
How Common are Braxton Hicks Contractions at 28 Weeks?
Braxton Hicks contractions are very common by 28 weeks pregnant. The average pregnant woman will start to notice them somewhere between 6 and 28 weeks.
At 28 weeks pregnant, it’s perfectly normal to have up to 10 or more Braxton Hicks contractions per hour. Some women have them daily for weeks or months before delivery. Others might only feel them once in awhile. The frequency varies a lot between individuals.
So in general – lots of practice contractions by 28 weeks is normal and expected!
Differences Between Braxton Hicks and True Labor
Since Braxton Hicks contractions prepare your body for true labor, it can be confusing to tell the difference between them. Here are some ways to tell Braxton Hicks vs real contractions:
- Braxton Hicks – Irregular and sporadic. They do not get closer together or form a consistent pattern.
- True Labor – Contractions come regularly, with increasing frequency and getting closer together over time.
- Braxton Hicks – Relatively mild tightening. Often painless or only mildly uncomfortable. Come and go.
- True Labor – Contractions steadily increase in strength. They become painful and intense over time.
- Braxton Hicks – Each contraction lasts 30 seconds or less.
- True Labor – Contractions last about 30-70 seconds, increasing over time.
- Braxton Hicks – Belly tightens in the front.
- True Labor – Whole uterus tightens, including the back and sides.
Effect of Changing Positions
- Braxton Hicks – Changing positions makes them go away or lessen.
- True Labor – Contractions continue despite shifting positions.
- Braxton Hicks – No increase in vaginal discharge or bleeding.
- True Labor – Water breaking and/or bloody show occur.
So in summary, true labor brings intense contractions that steadily increase in frequency, duration, and pain. Braxton Hicks tend to be sporadic and do not intensify over time. Pay attention to patterns rather than any single contraction. If you’re unsure, it never hurts to call your provider.
Are Braxton Hicks Contractions Painful?
Most women do not find Braxton Hicks contractions to be painful. Some describe them as painless tightening.
Others might feel mild discomfort, period-like cramping, or pressure. It normally does not rise to the level of being truly painful like true labor. If your Braxton Hicks contractions are very painful at 28 weeks pregnant, talk to your doctor.
However, everyone has a different pain tolerance. So there is a wide range of normal when it comes to feeling Braxton Hicks. Don’t worry if yours are painless or mildly uncomfortable – both are fine.
Braxton Hicks Contraction Triggers
Braxton Hicks contractions can be set off by many normal daily activities at 28 weeks pregnant. Common triggers include:
- Dehydration – drink more water!
- Full bladder – emptying bladder often stops them
- Increased physical activity like exercise
- Uterine stretching from baby’s movements
- Standing too long
- Enthusiastic laughing or coughing
So if you notice more practice contractions after any of the above, no need to worry! Staying hydrated and resting is all you need to calm them down.
When to Call Your Doctor About Braxton Hicks
While generally harmless, there are some cases where you should get checked out for possibly preterm labor:
- Contractions become regular and increasingly painful
- More than 6 contractions per hour prior to 37 weeks
- Contractions do not fade away with rest and hydration
- You have signs of preterm labor like pelvic pressure, low back pain, or discharge
- You have any vaginal bleeding
- You feel less fetal movement
Call right away if your water breaks before 37 weeks. Seek medical care immediately for heavy vaginal bleeding. Better safe than sorry – always call your provider if Braxton Hicks contractions worry you.
Tips for Managing Uncomfortable Braxton Hicks
If your Braxton Hicks contractions at 28 weeks are making you uncomfortable, try these self-care tips:
- Hydrate well – Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
- Rest up – Get off your feet and relax in a comfortable position. Change positions if needed.
- Stretch and move around – Gentle exercises like prenatal yoga can ease muscle tension causing contractions.
- Apply heat – Try a warm bath or heating pad where you feel tightness.
- Practice breathing exercises – Slow deep breathing helps relax the uterus. Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 6 counts.
- Empty your bladder – A full bladder can trigger more Braxton Hicks, so urinate frequently.
- Reduce stress – Unmanaged anxiety causes extra tightening. Try relaxing activities before bed.
- Avoid triggers – Steer clear of known triggers like sex or nipple stimulation if contractions become bothersome.
- Get checked out – Seek medical advice if self-care measures don’t provide relief.
If Braxton Hicks contractions are interfering with your normal daily activities, talk to your provider about options to reduce them.
When do Braxton Hicks Contractions Turn into Real Labor?
Braxton Hicks contractions typically persist throughout pregnancy. They do not directly turn into true labor.
However, the uterus is getting good practice for labor! When you do go into real labor, your body will be primed and ready.
Here’s a quick timeline of how practice and true labor coincide:
- 6-28 weeks – Sporadic, painless Braxton Hicks begin. Totally normal!
- 28-36 weeks – Braxton Hicks get more frequent but are still irregular.
- 36 weeks – Braxton Hicks stay frequent. You may notice more pelvic pressure. Lightning crotch anyone?
- 37 weeks – Term pregnancy begins! Any labor now is the real deal. Contractions start getting regular and increasing in strength/duration. Clear signs of labor appear.
- 38-42 weeks – You’re in active labor! Regular contractions become longer, stronger, and closer together until you deliver.
So in summary, Braxton Hicks stick around even as you transition into true labor. You’ll know real labor has begun when those nagging random contractions turn into the characteristic pattern of increasing intensity, duration, and frequency. Exciting times ahead!
When to Go to the Hospital in Labor at 28 Weeks
Since 28 weeks is still preterm, you want to avoid going into labor this early if possible. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of preterm labor like:
- Contractions every 10 minutes or less
- Pelvic pressure
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like period pains
- Increase or change in vaginal discharge
- Feeling like the baby is pushing down
- Water breaking before 37 weeks
If you experience any bleeding, severe pain, or decreased fetal movement, get medical care immediately. Otherwise, go to the hospital if:
- You are diagnosed with preterm labor after calling your provider
- Water breaks – call 911 if the fluid is green/brown, which may indicate distress
- Contractions are under 5 minutes apart, increasing in strength
- You have heavy vaginal bleeding or bleeding with clots
The goal is to stop labor if under 37 weeks. If you do go into very early labor, baby will need specialized NICU care. With proper monitoring and treatment, outcomes can be favorable even at 28 weeks gestation.
Preterm Labor Risk Factors at 28 Weeks
Some pregnant women are at higher risk for preterm (under 37 weeks) labor and delivery. Risk factors include:
- Being pregnant with multiples like twins
- Prior preterm birth
- Pregnancy complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes
- Structural issues like uterine fibroids, incompetent cervix, or short cervix
- Some infections like urinary tract infections or bacterial vaginosis
- Chronic conditions like high blood pressure, clotting disorders, or autoimmune disease
- Lifestyle factors like smoking, substance abuse, or limited prenatal care
- Physical trauma from events like car accidents
If you have any of these risk factors for preterm labor, take extra precautions and call your OB provider right away if you have contractions, pain, or other concerning symptoms before 37 weeks.
When to Start Monitoring Fetal Movement at 28 Weeks
By 28 weeks pregnant, your baby’s sleep and wake cycles are developing on more of a routine. You should start feeling fairly consistent movement every day.
It’s recommended to begin kick counting at 28 weeks. This involves tracking fetal movements to ensure baby is active enough.
Here are kick counting basics:
- Choose a time when baby is normally active, like after a meal
- Get comfortable on your left side, the ideal position for feeling movements
- Count each of baby’s movements – kicks, rolls, swishes, etc
- Count until you reach 10 movements
- Movement should occur within 2 hours at most, but often quicker
- Do kick counts 1-2 times per day
If you ever go 2 hours without feeling at least 10 movements, drink cold water and lie on your side. If still no movement after another hour, call your doctor right away or go to L&D triage.
Lack of normal movement could indicate potential problems. Monitoring kick counts helps provide peace of mind that your baby is thriving in there!
Tips for Bonding with Baby at 28 Weeks
The third trimester is a beautiful time to connect with your little one before birth. Here are some fun bonding ideas at 28 weeks pregnant:
- Talk or sing to your bump – baby can hear you now!
- Play music and notice baby’s reaction with kicks
- Read stories and describe the pictures
- Shine a flashlight so baby can see the light
- Gently rub your belly after putting lotion on – baby may follow along
- Start tracking kick counts and patterns
- Sit quietly feeling those flutters and rolls
- Go to a 3D ultrasound to see their cute face!
- Take weekly bump photos to look back on
- Imagine what baby will look like – hair color, eye color, features, etc
- Give baby a nickname and use their name when talking to them
- Take a fun “push present” registry focused on baby items
- Learn about development happening in week 28 – it’s amazing!
- Plan your nursing space, hospital bag checklist, and newborn care basics
- Tour potential daycare or preschool facilities
Enjoy feeling those precious kicks and soaking up this special time. Before you know it, you’ll be holding your baby in your arms!
Braxton Hicks contractions are generally harmless and affect most women by 28 weeks pregnant. While they may be uncomfortable, having up to 10 per hour is considered normal.
Monitor contraction patterns and call your doctor if they seem more intense or regular before term. Otherwise, use self-care measures to ease any bothersome Braxton Hicks tightening.
Contractions are a sign your uterus is practicing and getting stronger. Try to enjoy the excitement of connecting with baby through those little flutters and kicks! With the right prenatal care and precautions, you can have peace of mind your pregnancy is right on track at 28 weeks.