When you are going to be a mother, there are so many changes that you start to experience. Emotionally, you feel so much more tender, soft and intuitive. As you wait for your little one, you are full of hope, anxiety, and anticipation – all together.
On the other hand, your body also undergoes innumerable changes. Nausea, heightened sensitivity to certain smells and tastes, heaviness, and swelling of hands and feet are only a few of the symptoms that you generally experience. To add to it, as your pregnancy term progresses, your belly also grows with the baby growing within you. Apart from limitations in movement, it may also cause you some other kinds of discomfort – one of them being the hardening or tightening of your stomach muscles.
Pregnancy & Tightening Of Stomach Muscles- Braxton Hicks
Sudden hardening or tightening of stomach muscles is not very uncommon during pregnancy. This kind of tightening is also known as ‘Braxton Hicks’, a term that you are likely to encounter during your pregnancy and antenatal visits (1). When you experience Braxton Hicks contractions, your abdomen may feel very hard to touch. You may start feeling such tightening as early as the second trimester, though it is felt more prominently during the third trimester, and is also called as false labour (2). It is also a way of preparing your uterus for the delivery.
Why Do These Episodes Of Contractions/Hardening Happen?
During your pregnancy, the uterus increases in size to accommodate the baby growing inside you. The muscles and ligaments that support your uterus also expand and tighten to accommodate the growth and that is why it makes a push towards your abdominal muscles. Experts feel that such contractions are useful for toning up the uterine muscles and prepare them for delivery.
Alternatively, such tightening can also occur due to other factors like dehydration, a full bladder, sex, foetal movement, increased physical activity of the mum, etc. Such tightening is usually unpredictable, both in terms of consistency and intensity. The contractions can last for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. There may be mild to moderate pain associated with the contractions, especially in the last months of pregnancy, when there is a lot of stress on your uterus.
Alleviating The Symptoms Of Braxton Hicks
Though the symptoms of Braxton Hicks disappear on their own, there are a few things that you can do in order to ease your pain and discomfort:
- Stay Hydrated: One of the reasons why contractions can increase drastically and lead to premature labour is due to dehydration (3). Hence keep yourself hydrated and avoid activities that will overheat your body and cause dehydration.
- Warm Soothing Beverages: Drink something warm like soup or milk that is full of nutrients, which will relax your muscles.
- Warm Bath: Even a warm shower can provide comfort to your tightened abdominal muscles.
- Change Your Position: Standing, lying or sitting in the same position for a long time can cause stiffness and tightening. Change your position to allow more blood circulation, which may ease up the cramped muscles.
When To Go To The Doctor?
As discussed above, stomach tightening is largely common and harmless, but if you experience symptoms like vaginal bleeding, frequent and rhythmic contractions lasting for more than an hour, decrease in your baby’s movement or true labour contractions before the 37th week, rush to the concerned healthcare provider for a thorough check-up.
These were some important factors associated with tightening of stomach muscles during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. In case you experience these problems, do follow the abovementioned tips to feel at ease and consult a doctor in case the symptoms worsen.