Most pregnant women, especially those who are having their first child, feel anxious when they think about labor pain. However, labor pain is something that one has to go through, and one of the best ways of reducing the fear and tension is by knowing what do contractions feel like and when should one start for the hospital.
This is important because many women experience false contractions during the last phase of their pregnancy, which are many times mistaken to be true labor pain. This can lead to an unwanted visit to the hospital as well as unnecessary panic. Hence, knowing how contractions actually feel like will surely be helpful for the mother-to-be to decide when should she go to the hospital for the delivery.
Differentiating Between False Alarms and True Labor Contractions
► The whole process of childbirth can be divided into three sections. The first stage is where the body gets prepared to push the baby out of the mother’s womb. The second phase is the actual childbirth process where the woman has to start pushing to bring her baby out of the womb, and the third phase is when the placenta is pushed out of the body.
► The onset of the first phase is noticed with the occurrence of contractions, and the intensity of the pain can range from a dull ache to an excruciating pain. However, pregnant women may experience severe pain and then realize that it is not the actual labor pain. This false labor is also called Braxton Hicks contractions.
► This may actually begin during the late second trimester or early third trimester of pregnancy. Though women who are becoming mothers for the first time consider false contractions to be extremely painful, women who have experienced it earlier believe that this pain is nothing when compared to actual labor.
► During false contractions, the cervix does not dilate and one experiences a feeling of tightness in the stomach muscles.
► One way of differentiating false contractions from the real ones is to note their timing and duration. This is because false contractions last for a very short time and are very irregular. For instance, you may experience the pain for a few seconds or minutes, and then it may reappear only after a few hours or even after a day.
► Also, false contractions may stop when you move your position, walk, drink water, etc., while no such thing happens when you are in actual labor.
► On the other hand, real contractions can be identified easily. In the beginning, the contractions may last for just a few seconds and may occur after every ten minutes. As you progress into active labor, the time gap decreases and you will find an increase in the intensity of the contractions. When you start experiencing 3 to 4 contractions in an hour, it should be considered as the right time to contact your health practitioner or midwife.
Some Useful Tips
Some of the most common questions that soon-to-be mothers ask about contractions is when to call the doctor and when to go to the hospital.
➜ One must understand that one need not rush to the hospital when the contractions start. Rather, it is best to relax and stay at home during the time of early labor.
➜ It is a good idea to keep a track of the contractions. Determine for how much time do they last and how frequently are they appearing. This will help you determine when to rush to the hospital.
➜ During this time gap, you can indulge in things, like taking a bath, eating, reading, watching television, or anything that you feel is relaxing. When the contractions begin to last for 30 – 60 seconds, within a gap of five minutes, you should call your doctor who will tell you whether it is the correct time to start for the hospital.
➜ However, it is said that if it is the woman’s second or third delivery, she should start much before the contractions (having a gap of 5 minutes) begin to occur, as the second delivery takes place faster than the first.
➜ So, if you are having your second or third baby, it is better to call your doctor or midwife when you start feeling the contractions. Once you are in full labor, the contractions last longer and begin to overlap each other.
➜ You may also experience a pushing sensation during this time, but do not push till your doctor asks you to do so. The second phase can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours.
However, the one thing you should understand is that contractions during labor will not be the same for everyone. Hence, if you observe abnormal symptoms, like blood spots, abnormal color of broken membranes, etc., consult your doctor as soon as possible.