Seasoned mothers, and especially those who go through labour, however, know exactly what to expect. The contractions that precede delivery can be so painful to a point they cause anxiety just by the thought of it.
What are Contractions?
Contractions are defined as the periodic tightening and relaxation of a woman’s uterine muscles. These muscles form the largest group of muscles in a woman’s body, usually signifying the onset of labor.
There are different types of contractions that an expectant mother can experience:
- Early contractions– During early contractions, your body immediately starts preparing for pregnancy. There is usually stretching of ligaments around the uterine wall to accommodate the growing baby. If bleeding, spotting or abdominal pain accompanies theses contraction you should visit a doctor to rule out an ectopic pregnancy or a possible miscarriage.
- Braxton Hicks or false labor– Random and irregular contractions that happen after the 34th week of pregnancy are called Braxton hicks or false labor. Your uterus starts to prepare for delivery by contracting and is mostly considered as a practice run.
- Preterm contractions-These are regular contractions that happen consistently before your due date and are timed at 10 minutes apart. Consider visiting your doctor in such a case as it could be a sign of preterm labor.
- Sex contraction -Orgasms during pregnancy can cause contractions. Sex during pregnancy can cause Braxton hicks which generally subside in a few hours.
True labor contractions-These contractions happen towards the tail end of your pregnancy. Look out for these signs to know whether you are actually going into labor:
- Back pain during contractions
- Persistent contraction that do not lighten up with change of position.
- Contractions that increase with intensity are longer and are closer together.
- Contractions that change the cervix like dilation.
Relaxation is Key
When you have determined that the contractions signify true labor, it is important for you to stay as calm and relaxed as you can. You can do this by:
- Practicing deep breathing techniques
- Making sure your hospital bag is packed and ready
- Having a birth partner who could help you relax
- Labor massage
When to Go to Hospital
Going to the hospital too soon isn’t recommended unless your pregnancy is high risk, preterm or if you have a multiple pregnancy. Using these steps can help you decide when to go to hospital.
- The 411 method-contraction 4 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, for 1 hour
- If your water breaks
- Your hands and feet swell
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
And remember to carry your hospital/ delivery bag as your head to the hospital.
Please note that development differs from one child to another.
Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.
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Last reviewed March 2019