Pregnancy is the time when a woman experiences mixed emotions. While at one end she will be excited about carrying a baby, at the other end, she will be dreading the much talked about labor pains. Though the process of childbirth is quite painful, most mothers have said that they did not even remember the pain, once they held their baby in their hands. Hence, it can be said that experiencing labor pains is an inevitable as well as necessary part of motherhood. However, if you are very nervous about the impending labor pain, the best way of reducing some tension is to know what is to be expected when you go into labor. So, here is some valuable information on contractions during pregnancy.
What are Contractions During Pregnancy?
Human gestation period can extend anywhere between 37 – 42 weeks. If a woman starts having contractions before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is known as preterm labor and if she goes into labor only after 42 weeks of pregnancy, it is known as post-term labor. Although childbirth or labor pain is something that all pregnant women have to go through, their experiences are not always similar. Sometimes, what a woman must have experienced during her first delivery will be totally different from what she experienced during the second. However, childbirth does follow a set pattern which is more or less same for every woman. Here, you will know as to what contractions are like.
Before we discuss about contractions during labor, it is important to understand the phenomenon of false contractions, which are actually known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These start at the end of the second trimester and are usually present throughout the third trimester. Although they are called practice contractions, they are not related to the actual labor pain. When one has false contractions, one feels tightening of the abdominal muscles. Factors that can cause these include movement of the fetus, dehydration, vigorous physical exercise, sexual intercourse, etc. Though contractions can be anywhere from strong to very weak pain in the lower abdomen, it usually goes away when the woman changes her position or does some relaxing activity.
Real contractions are one of the several signs which indicate the beginning of labor. Many women think that they will not be able to make out the difference between false and real contractions. However, this is not true, rather there are several factors that distinguish the two. Along with the contractions, one is also likely to experience lightening i.e. when the baby is lowered into the pelvis, passing of the mucous plug, water breaking and dilation of the cervix. Unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions which are very irregular, the real ones come at regular intervals. Hence, if you time them, you will be able to know whether you are having real contractions or not. Also, these will not pass, when you try to change your position or do some other activity.
Many women have reported that the pain which they experienced during labor is something similar to menstrual cramps. The pain actually starts at the back and moves down to the lower abdomen. Also, one is likely to feel a whole lot of pressure on the pelvis. Apart from this, there have been women who have experienced pain on their thighs as well as on their sides during childbirth. When the real contractions begin, they are usually not very severe and are timed 10 minutes apart. With the passing time, the contractions become closer and the pain also increases gradually. One has to reach the hospital when one starts experiencing more than four contractions in an hour.
I hope this article has been helpful. Apart from this, one is likely to experience contractions during miscarriage too. In such conditions, along with the uterine contractions to push out the fetus, one is also likely to experience bleeding, breaking of the membranes, pain and widening of the cervix. If you experience any such thing during your pregnancy, consult your health practitioner immediately.