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Why do breasts letdown when I have Braxton-Hicks contractions?
Q: I’m 31 weeks into my third pregnancy. I have been having the usual Braxton-Hicks contractions, but in the last few days I have also begun to feel the letdown sensation associated with your milk coming in. Is it too soon for this to occur? It has been 10 years since my last pregnancy, and I don’t remember this happening. It often coincides with the contractions, but they are not very strong yet, so I haven’t been alarmed. Should I call my doctor before next week’s appointment?
A: By all means, call your doctor and discuss your contractions. Preterm labor begins with a series of recurrent contractions and results in premature dilation (opening) of the cervix. Untreated preterm labor can result in a premature birth. Your doctor will discuss your contractions in more detail and decide whether an immediate checkup is needed to examine your cervix. Milk letdown results from the release of oxytocin, which is the same chemical that causes contractions. Since you have already had two pregnancies, it is likely that your body is primed to let down milk in response to oxytocin. I’m not worried about your milk production per se, but I am concerned that you are having contractions at 31 weeks, and that your body may be preparing for an early delivery. So please call your doctor right away.

As a reminder to others who read this site, signs of preterm labor include:

  • Uterine contractions (more than four an hour) or menstrual-like cramping prior to 37 weeks

  • Vaginal discharge, such as watery fluid or bloody discharge

  • Low backache or pelvic pressure