When it is time for your body to bring a new baby into the world, the brain stimulates hormones to cause the uterus to contract. Usually women will go into labor between 38 and 42 weeks after conception. If the brain does not stimulate these hormones in a given time, doctors will induce labor.
What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are contractions that prepare your body for the work that is ahead. This type of contraction can be thought of as an exercise contraction. If your body did not prepare itself with Braxton Hicks contractions, labor would be longer, more painful and overall not as productive in pushing out a baby.
Most women will begin experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions around the 5th -7th month and will continue until delivery. These contractions can be described as a tightening of the abdominal area, but are usually not painful. However, as you near your due date these contractions do become more powerful and begin to feel uncomfortable (I would not describe it as painful though---just uncomfortable). These contractions can also be felt after having an orgasm. After an orgasm you may experience stronger Braxton Hicks contractions and you may experience some cramping. This is perfectly normal. Many women say that their abdomen gets very hard after an orgasm. During the fourth and fifth month, you may notice your uterus knotting up in a little ball after an orgasm which is very normal.
If you are experiencing pain with the Braxton Hicks contractions, it is more likely to be the ligaments pulling than the actual "exercise contraction" that is causing the pain. When ligaments stretch, especially in first-time pregnancies, it can cause a burning, pulling sensation on the sides of the abdomen. I have heard of women who have a lot of pain with the ligaments stretching. If your contractions are painful and you are near the 40th week of your pregnancy, you may be experiencing true contractions.
How are Braxton Hicks contractions different from "real" contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions do not dilate or efface the cervix. These contractions cause the abdominal muscles to prepare for childbirth ahead, but they are not productive in the birth of the baby. The Braxton Hicks contractions do not have a pattern and they usually go away if you change your activity or drink water.
Real contractions cause the cervix to dilate and efface (thin out). These contractions have a pattern and do not go away if you change your activity. They may even get worse if you try to walk.
How Will I know if I am in True Labor?
If you are in true labor, contractions will begin somewhere between the 38th -42nd week of pregnancy, but usually somewhere around the 40th. A good way to tell if you will deliver around the 40th week is to study your past menstrual cycles. If you had longer cycles, you may deliver a week or two after your due date (or the 40th week). If you had shorter cycles, you may deliver earlier than your due date (or the 40th week).
Some women lose their mucus plugs and then their labor begins. Others, may have their water break after losing their mucus plug and then labor begins. Then you will have those women whose labor just begins without any previous signs.
Once your contractions are about 5 to 20 minutes apart and they are staying even if you walk around or lay on your left side, labor has begun! This is the time to get to the hospital. Remember if you live far away from your hospital tell your doctor. They may want you to come when your contractions are around 10 or 15 minutes apart.
To time contractions, first I would suggest buying a stopwatch. This is the most accurate way to time contractions since looking at the second hand on the clock is not very practical.
Okay, you have your stopwatch and you are ready to time! First either you or someone else should write down the times beginning and ending of your contractions. A good book that provides a contraction chart is "What To Expect When You Are Expecting (Pregnancy Organizer)".
When you begin to have the tightening in your abdomen, push the button on the stopwatch. After you have no pain or uncomfortable feelings, push the button again (your belly may still be a little tight, but no pain or uncomfortable feelings). Record what the stopwatch said on the paper. When you begin to have another pain, do the exact same thing. Once you have about five contractions recorded, look for some type of pattern. Are they 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute or more? (GET TO HOSPITAL). On the other hand, are they 15 minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds? Whatever it may be, if there is a pattern, call your doctor and let them know.
Will Walking Help My Labor to Progress?
Many people say that walking will help some women go into labor. I personally believe walking does help, but lately medical professionals are saying that walking does no good and nature will take over when it is time. I believe that when you walk the gravity of your body causes the fetus to prepare for the transition through the birth canal. Before your baby can be born it has to engage, pass through -5 stations (to the cervix) and beyond (+5 stations---crowning). Walking can settle the baby further down into these stations and cause dilation to occur. This is my personal opinion so please do not tell everyone that I said if you walk your labor will begin. What can it hurt though? Walking is very good exercise and supplies your fetus with oxygen rich blood. If you have had complications with your pregnancy, please check with your physician before beginning a walking exercise program.
What Does A Contraction feel like?
The only way that I can describe a contraction is like an orgasm or an ocean wave. The contraction begins and climbs and climbs then lets off and you go back down hill. Then again the contraction C L I M B S & C L I M B S then quickly goes back down. The contractions will feel differently depending on which stage you are in.
If you are in phase one (Early Labor), it may feel only like a tightening feeling. This type of contraction may feel similar to a muscle spasm all in the abdomen and kind of achy feeling. This phase will usually last 8-9 hours and may go un-noticed until the end of this phase. When you are in the Active Phase, the contractions will make you squirm. No matter which position you get in, you will still be uncomfortable. This phase will generally last between 3-4 hours. Your body will feel like it can take no more (not unbearable, but getting there). Fear can cause the pain to become worse. The more you know how to breath appropriately and stay as calm as possible, the better you will do during labor. During this second phase, you will feel a sense of "can I do this?". This alone will start to make you panic. If you catch this panicky feeling before it overtakes you and makes the pain worse, you can minimize the pain you feel during labor. Some women will opt for pain relievers at this time. Others will rely on breathing techniques and relaxation.
During the last phase (transitional labor), you will feel the most pain, but it is the shortest phase (lasting 10-60 minutes). The contractions of this phase may be described as continuous. They feel like one big contraction. They do not feel like they are rising and falling like ocean waves, but rather steady and hard like a surge of pain. You may feel like you are not getting a break in between the contractions to catch your breath. Many women feel a strong urge to push at this time (if they are not numbed by medications like an epidural). Your doctor will advise you not to push at this time.
When the baby has crowned (baby head showing), you will be able to push. The first pushes should be gentle & steady pushes. Pushing can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.
After the baby is born, you may or may not have to push the placenta out. Sometimes the body takes over and pushes the placenta out and other times the doctor may ask you to push a couple of times. The placenta usually comes out within 5-20 minutes after the birth of your baby.
Hope this helps all of you!
<3 Kaitlan :D
Thanks for this. Lately Ive been thinking man I wonder how they will feel when they happen, This helps alot!
Thanks that was an every question answered at once post.
No problem, I thought it was all very helpful information! It's what we're suppossed to share on here lol! A really cool websight too, for timing them is called CONTRACTIONMASTER.COM. It literally times your contractions out, dates the time, and tells you how often they are coming, VIA every 5, 10, 15 minutes. The frequency. It's pretty neat, check it out :D
I can't believe they compare contractions to orgasms:shock:
I'm 35 weeks and haven't had any braxton hicks contractions. my doctor said that that is okay and that some women never have them. does that mean my labor will be more difficult and longer? they never said anything about that i really hope thats not true!
I can almost guarentee you you have had them already. Most likely just didn't feel them. I thought the same thing, still do because I never felt anything. Then one day I went to the hopsital for kick counts and saw the contractions bar going off the roof and was like what the hell, this is a contraction?! I don't feel a thing... I was then informed that it was a braxton hicks. I honestly didn't even feel it, and wouldn't of known had I not seen the computer. So most likely, your having them. It's a naturaul thing that happens to prepare our bodies. I wouldn't start worrying now.
thanks for sharing this! although i am about to deliver my 2nd DD - with my first I was induced and had an epidural so I really didn't "know" what contractions felt like. :? (I think I actually blocked them out!) So this 2nd time I was concerned about the difference of contractions and BH. I am actually nearly 41 weeks - so I am pretty sure these aren't the BH's but the real ones - but nevertheless am grateful for this information! thanks again!
is the way you feel the braxton hicks the way you will feel real labor?
for example when i feel the braxton hicks its more in my back. does this mean i will have back labor?