What are labor contractions like?

Various types of contractions occur during pregnancy that help exercise the uterus and prepare it for childbirth. This is why it can be difficult for the expectant mother to differentiate between irregular contractions and those of childbirth. Here we will talk about it to understand this aspect of pregnancy. 

Once the positive result appears in the pregnancy test, a roller coaster of emotions, questions and new physical sensations begins that can vary from one woman to another, considering that each organism is different.

For some women, pregnancy is full of symptoms such as nausea with or without vomiting, frequent urination, gas, extreme tiredness, constipation, acute smell, swelling, among others. 

Other pregnant women are fortunate to have a milder pregnancy that allows them to carry out their activities with total normality. Regardless of which is the case, what is common in all pregnancies is that the uterus is exercising and strengthening during the nine months of gestation. 

knowing the womb

The uterus is a smooth muscle made up of fibers, which have a relaxation phase and a contraction phase, this organ is capable of exerting the necessary pressure to expel the baby. 

To achieve its function, the uterus prepares itself during pregnancy through contractions. These, in turn, promote blood circulation through the placenta and the uterine cavity. 

However, there are several types of uterine contractions that occur throughout pregnancy and here we explain what their characteristics are. With this information you will be able to identify when it is the real moment to give birth.

types of contractions

  • Contractions A: These are the first contractions of pregnancy and can occur from the beginning of pregnancy until week 28. Their intensity is low and their frequency is low. Generally, they are not detected by the pregnant woman.
  • Focal contractions: When the baby changes position, some contractions can be located in areas of the uterus, maintaining low intensity. 
  • Generalized contractions: These occur when the mother makes some excessive physical effort or a sudden change in position, starting the contraction in a certain area and spreading to the rest of the uterus. 
  • Braxton Hicks contractions: This type is the one that occurs from the third trimester. They are characterized by being irregular contractions and feeling the belly hard, because the abdomen tenses without causing pain. Their frequency is low and they can last between 30 and 60 seconds, increasing with the evolution of the pregnancy.
  • Prepartum contractions: These contractions feel more intense than Braxton’s, but they do not precede delivery as such, since they are the ones that appear a few days before to indicate that the big moment is not far away. These are produced to soften the cervix and although they are more frequent they are not rhythmic. 
  • Labor contractions: They are characterized by being progressive, regular and intense. That is, they occur in stable periods of 3 to 5 contractions every 10 minutes, they are painful and their duration ranges between 60 and 90 seconds. Also, the belly feels hard even when the pain subsides a bit.

How do contractions start?

Every new pregnant woman wants to know how labor contractions start. This is not so difficult, as some signs are easy to identify because they are common in most cases.

  • Regular: Occur in the same time interval, which is reduced with increasing dilation.
  • Duration: As labor approaches, contractions are short, lasting no more than 40 seconds. 
  • Intensity: The pain becomes more acute and does not stop with the change of position. 

What are labor contractions like?

Now that you know the aspects that distinguish labor contractions, another latent unknown follows: what is the pain of contractions like?

Collecting numerous testimonies and medical opinions, some statements indicate that the first contractions are like period pains, sometimes they can be intense like a cramp and force you to change position.

Other women describe cramping or a sharp pain in their back, specifically their lower back. There are also women who say they have felt almost nothing even in the last centimeters of dilation .

What is totally a myth is the belief that women who suffer from a lot of menstrual cramps will have a more painful delivery. On the contrary, doctors affirm that many of these women have better resistance to pain, because they are somehow used to this type of colic.

However, it should also be noted that when it comes to pain we are talking about a subjective aspect, since the pain threshold varies completely from one person to another .

When to go to the hospital?

Many doctors and midwives recommend that pregnant women wait at home for uterine contractions to progress and keep track of how long a contraction lasts. 

In the case of feeling contractions every 5 minutes, it is necessary to go to the hospital because that means that there is really little time left to give birth. Also, if you feel that you have difficulty breathing, the amniotic sac is ruptured or you cannot tolerate the pain, you should also go to the hospital immediately.

Upon arrival you will receive all the necessary care, as the labor pains will be more intense, the expulsion phase will begin and you will feel the need to push. 

What if I don’t have contractions?

In order for childbirth to occur, dilation of the cervix is ​​necessary, and in turn, for said dilation to exist, there must be contractions.

However, medical protocols indicate that after 41 weeks and 3 days, if no contractions occur, labor should be induced so as not to exceed the end of the gestational period, since the baby could suffer from a lack of oxygenation due to the aging of the placenta past this period. 

In this situation, prostaglandins are used for labor. These are lipid substances that act as hormones to promote uterine contractions and can be applied in the form of gel or medications.

Another way to stimulate the production of prostaglandins is by breaking the bag of waters to accelerate contractions. Clearly, all these procedures must be performed in the hospital by professional doctors, so before that time, focus on learning to recognize all the characteristics of contractions before delivery, so that it is easier for you to identify them when you go through each one of them. those stages. 

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