7 Things You Didn't Know About Contractions

Contractions are a necessary part of natural childbirth. The baby won't be brought into this world without them, unless you're having a c-section of course, then you've by passed the contractions and have gone straight to the delivery process. In any case, contractions and birth go hand in hand.

Contractions are the tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles before and during childbirth. The contractions usually occur at intervals. The uterus will tighten during a contraction and then become soft again when the uterus relaxes. There are several different types of contractions. The main categories are false labor contractions and real labor contractions. However, we will break the false labor category down even further.

A hormone called oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland during contractions. This hormone stimulates the tightening of the uterus. Contractions are very important during childbirth because they help to move the baby through the birth canal and out into your awaiting arms.

In order to delivery the placenta, you're body uses contractions as well. Some women need help getting their contractions to "quicken," these women are given a synthetic version of oxytocin called pitocin. If you want learn more about what they feel like and how to distinguish false labor from real labor, then here are seven things you should know about contractions.

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7  Braxton Hicks - Preterm Contractions

These are early contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions and also called practice contractions. The previous contractions are all considered false labor contractions. False contractions, such as early contractions that may occur during the first trimester.

I experienced early contractions during my pregnancy. Early contractions can occur for a number of reasons, something as simple as gas can cause early contractions, even constipation and dehydration can cause early contractions. Please see a doctor if the contractions are accompanied with pain in your abdominal or bleeding. Your doctor will need to rule out a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

Preterm contractions might make you think you're going into labor early when you're not

Preterm contractions, or Braxton Hicks, can occur after 34 weeks. Please see your doctor if the contractions occur every 10 minutes. False contractions can be accompanied by false labor symptoms too. They are irregular and you can make them stop by moving about.

Of course we are all familiar with real labor contractions. Real labor contractions occur near the end of the pregnancy. These contractions will occur with real signs of labor. How can you tell when you are having false or real labor contractions? Well as stated earlier, false labor contractions are irregular and you can stop them by changing positions. Real labor contractions are more regular and can be timed.

6 What Do Braxton Hicks Feel Like

Braxton Hicks contractions most often makes the abdomen tighten. While, real contractions start in the lower back and lower abdomen for some women. There is also pressure in the pelvis. Real labor pains are , different for each woman. However, most women experience these signs of real labor, most women go to the hospital to get ready for delivery when their contractions occur every 10 minutes. 

There are other signs that will alert you as to whether you are having false or real labor contractions, real labor pains intensify and become more frequent as time goes on. You might even see blood with real labor contractions. Your membranes may rupture or in other words your water may break.

Don't head to the hospital just yet, move around first

Real labor contractions also occur with increasing pressure on the vagina or pelvis area. Some women experience nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting during labor as well. False labor contractions are basically the opposite. They don't occur at regular intervals. They don't intensify and become more frequent. And most obviously, the pain will dissipitate when you move around.

5 The Difference Between Abdominal Pain and Labor

Another type of pain that can mimic that of contractions is abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is characterized by sharp pains that shoot down the sides of, yep you guessed it, your abdomen. This type of pain can also be felt in your pelvis and groin, it's commonly referred to as round ligament pain.

You will most likely feel this type of pain if you're moving around. You might even experience the pain if you sneeze, cough and urinate. This pain can also be caused by rolling over and standing up. Again, like the false labor pains, this type of pain does not intensify with time, nor can these pains  be timed on any regular basis.

Abdominal pain is a short pain that runs down your abdomen

These pains are usually short and sharp and can be calmed by  changing your position of sitting or laying down. You might even be able to stop the pain by supporting your belly with a pillow when you lay down, or with a belt if you're on your feet for any period of time. Moving slowly, resting and heat can also make these pains go away.

4  Early Signs of Labor

Before you're ready to go into labor, your body prepares for birth by doing a number of things. First your pelvis will descend a few weeks before the actual labor begins, especially if this is your first time giving birth. The next thing that happens, is your baby will turn so that they are positioned head down, ready to make that exit. This turning can result in your need for frequent bathroom trips.

Real labor feels different from the other pains mentioned before. Real contractions start in the lower back and lower abdomen for some women, there might also be pressure in the pelvis. Additional signs of real labor includes pain in legs or sides. Some women feel as though they are having diarrhea cramps while others state it feels like strong menstrual cramps.

Get that watch out and time those contractions

It is a good idea to know the length of contractions for each stage of labor. This is very beneficial because not only does it help you to know what type of contraction you are experiencing, you can also use it as a motivator to get you through each contraction. You or someone else can coach you through each contraction by being aware of how many seconds are remaining for that particular contraction. 

Each contraction last about 30-45 seconds, with breaks that can last anywhere from 5-20 minutes in between, during early labor. You will feel double peak-contractions when your cervix is fully dilated, this marks the end of the first stage and you will transition into the second stage of labor.

3 Active Labor

By the time you're in active labor, hopefully you're already at the hospital, or if you've opted for a home birth, your midwife is already at your house. Active labor lasts between 40-60 seconds and has a distinct peak period half way through each contraction with breaks that last 3-4 minutes long between contractions. This means that your contractions are probably making you very uncomfortable right about now.

If you are at the hospital, now is the perfect time to ask your doctor for an epidural, or get some other medication that can help you through your contractions. This might also be the perfect time for you to get that back massage you so desperately need, since your labor began in your back. Some women like having a wet cloth run over their face or feel the need to move about. Whatever you need, just ask and someone will help you out.

It's called active labor for a reason

If your labor is having trouble progressing, you can go for a walk down the halls, take a shower if the hospital has them, bounce on a birthing ball, or any other thing you find that helps you to move and keep your mind off your pain.

2 Transitional Labor

Contractions last 60-90 seconds during transitional labor. Pushing during the actual delivery contractions will last the entire 60-90 second window, these contractions are spaced closer together, about 2-3 minutes, which isn't very long. It'll feel even shorter when the pain spikes and drops off and spikes again, over and over. Depending on the individual, a woman can be pushing anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. And if you're truly unfortunate, even longer.

When the contraction pain comes, you will feel pressure on your rectum and lower back, this is when you'll feel the need to push, or feel that your body is prepared to push out your baby, but don't push until your doctor tells you that you're fully dilated. Pushing before you're fully dilated can tear or cause the cervix to swell, either of which will make pushing harder.

Although you might feel like giving up, your baby is literally right around the corner

This pain and pressure can make some women nauseous, or feel like they have a fever where they feel sweaty or cold and go back and forth between those feelings. The contractions can make you feel exhausted, weak and shaky. It all depends on how long you've been laboring for and if you've taken any pain medications.

Depending on the way the baby is positioned inside of your womb will also be a deciding factor in how much pain you feel during the contractions and delivery. Some women experience what's called "piggy back" contractions, which is where just as one contraction begins to fade, another one begins without giving the woman a break from the pain.

1 Contraction Tests

Did you know you can get a contraction stress test? Yes, this is true. A contraction stress tests checks the strength of your baby during labor. This test triggers contractions. Then your baby's heart rate is monitored to check whether it beats normally, etc. If the baby's heart rate is not normal, the baby will not be able to handle labor. If this is the case, your baby may have to be delivered early.

This test is generally safe for most women, at times, it can start labor to begin early. You can opt to get a contraction stress test beginning at around 32 weeks. You may be wondering how this test is done. The doctor may give you oxytocin intravenously. The doctor may decide not to give you oxytocin or you may not want it. 

These tests don't hurt, but are vital to your labor process

In that case, the doctor may ask you to rub your nipples until contractions are triggered. You will be on a bed with two belts on your tummy. One belt will measure the contractions and the other belt will monitor the baby's heartbeat. Doctor's monitor your contractions so they can tell if there is problems and to monitor the progression of your labor. Women who don't progress on their own are given oxytocin, or are prepared for an emergency c-section depending on their case.

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