All pregnant women have a sudden scare with their first Braxton Hicks contractions as they fear that they may be coming into early labour. These contractions of the uterus can occur at any time in the last four months of pregnancy, but are very common in the last month of the pregnancy. They are completely normal and harmless.
The woman feels a tightening of the uterus that may last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, but there is usually no pain associated with the phenomenon. More intense Braxton Hicks contractions may be difficult to differentiate from the onset of labour late in pregnancy.
Braxton Hicks contractions are responsible for many false labour alarms resulting in a rush to hospital.
They are named after the English physician John Braxton Hicks (1823-1897).